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Nissan Bluebird (1986 - 1990)

Last updated 13 June 2019


Model Timeline

February 1984
Nissan agrees to set-up UK assembly plant in the UK

Under the leadership of Nissan's president, Takashi Ishihara, the Japanese car manufacturer and the British government signed an agreement to build a car plant in the UK. The idea had first been mooted by the UK government way back in February 1980.

March 1984
A greenfield site located in Washington is chosen for the new factory

A 799-acre greenfield site near Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, was chosen for the new facrtoy. The North East region had been enduring a sustained period of industrial decline, with the closure of most of the shipyards on the Wear and Tyne, and the closure of many coal mines on the once prosperous Durham coalfield.

The high unemployment rate in the area meant Nissan had a large, eager, manufacturing-skilled workforce to draw upon. The site, once the Sunderland Airfield (formerly RAF Usworth), was close to ports on the Wear and Tyne, within easy driving distance of the international Newcastle Airport, and close to major trunk roads such as the A1 and A19. The established company became known as Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd, or NMUK.

November 1984
Work begins on the new site

Nissan Washington (1)

A ground breaking ceremony had taken place in July, and work began on the site in November 1984, by building contractors Sir Robert McAlpine (above).

April 1985
The site is set-up as a 'single-union' factory

An agreement was reached with the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) allowing the plant to become a single-union site. Nissan stated that as a result of the single-union agreement, its workforce was - and is - much more flexible than at other plants, and the fact that there have been no strikes or associated industrial action in the factory since it opened.

December 1985
Factory building completed

In December 1985, McAlpine handed over the completed factory building to Nissan for the installation of machinery and factory components, ahead of schedule.

March 1986
Nissan Bluebird T12 introduced in the UK

New T12 model introduced in the UK. Like the previous U11 model, which had only been on sale for around 18 months, it was a conventionally engineered front-wheel drive saloon, offered in four-door saloon and five-door hatchback forms, and 1.6- and 2.0-litre forms. Much was made by Nissan that these cars had been tuned specifically for UK market tastes, although like the older Bluebird (and the Stanza it directly replaced globally), the Bluebird's styling didn't reflect a Western-looking company's ambitions.

Original range consisted of 1.6L, and LX, 1.8LX and SLX, Turbo ZX, 2.0SLX ans SGX, and the 2.0DX. Although this was a much wider and more fleet-friendly model line-up than previus models, it was still less generous than Ford and Vauxhall's line-ups.

Nissan Bluebird Job1

September 1986
The completed plant is opened

Nissan Washington (2) The first Bluebird was produced shortly in August 1986 (above), and the official opening took place the following month - Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Nissan President Yutaka Kume (right) attended the site opening. Margaret Thatcher also painted the second eye on a traditional Japanese ‘daruma’ doll to confirm the successful opening of the plant. This followed the painting of the first eye by Prince Charles and Princess Diana during a visit to Nissan’s Zama Plant in Japan.

Bluebird production was still building at this point, and it initially supplemented UK assembled models with ones imported in from Japan. In the first year of production, 5139 Bluebirds roll off the line, and 430 people are employed there.

February 1987
All UK Bluebirds now built in the UK

By February 1987, NMUK had become the sole supplier of the Bluebird model to the UK market, but with the majority of components imported from Japan. But with the beginning of Phase 2 of the operation, where a new plastics moulding and engine assembly facility being instigated, the Bluebird would end up containing far more 'local' content. Initially four-door Bluebirds were assembled in the UK, but at this point in time, the five-door started production in Washington, too.

January 1988
Bluebird mildly facelifted

The Bluebird received a new raditor grille and bumpers as well as a model re-shuffle for its first facelift. The new model, now known as the T72, saw the 1.6L replaced by the 1.6LS, the 1.8LX replaced by the 1.8GS, and the 1.8SLX dropped from the range. The 2.0SLX and SGX were also dropped, to be replaced by a new 2.0GSX version, which after six months, was fuel injected to become the 2.0iGSX. All models looked more contemporary thanks to colour-coded bumpers, and received additional equipment - but still failed to make significant inroads into the fleet market, despite Nissan make great play of the car's UK status.

January 1989
1.6 Premium and Executive models added to the range

September 1990
Bluebird ceased production in the UK

The Bluebird is replaced by the Primera after a production run of 187,178 in the UK.

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