EUROPE'S most productive car plant marked another milestone yesterday, as car number four million rolled off the production line.

Nissan workers on the morning shift finished work on the model at 7.30am and it was presented to children's charity, the NSPCC.

Nissan managing director Colin Dodge said: "It is a happy day for us.

"Twenty years ago, not many people thought we would reach four million cars."

Mr Dodge unveiled a production version of the C+C, a convertible Micra, which will go on sale in September, the first of three new models to be built at Sunderland.

It will be followed by the Tone mini-MPV in January and the Qashqai, a hybrid 4x4 saloon car, in December next year.

Nissan has already taken on 200 apprentices to build an estimated 230,000 of the models a year.

Mr Dodge also showed off the Micra SR, a sporty version that will have a 1.6 litre engine. It is billed as a city car that will compete with the Mini, the Citroen C2 VTR and the Ford Fiesta Zetec-S.

Journalists were given a sneak preview of the planned facelift for the original Micra.

It is part of Nissan's policy of avoiding the price cuts offered as sales incentives by other manufacturers. Mr Dodge said: "The Micra has only been on the market for two-and-a-half years.

"We prefer to refresh it rather than get into the discounting business."

The new models coming to Sunderland will not only underpin jobs at the plant, but will create hundreds more in the regional supply chain.

One example is German firm Karmann, a supplier which has a facility within the Sunderland plant.

It will make the C+C's retractable roof and deliver it direct to the side of the assembly line.

Its workforce of 32 will double when production of the C+C starts in September.