After nearly 40 years, in which he has seen Nissan Sunderland Plant rise from an empty field into one of the world’s most important automotive hubs, senior vice president Kevin Fitzpatrick is retiring.
Mr Fitzpatrick was one of the original 22 supervisors hired before the plant opened to oversee the start of production of the Nissan Bluebird in 1986. As the factory has grown, so has his career and influence.
From his early days in the paint shop, Fitzpatrick held a range of senior positions across the plant and became vice president for manufacturing in 2010, before rising to region senior vice president, manufacturing and supply chain for the Africa, Middle-East, India, Europe and Oceania region (AMIEO).
Guillaume Cartier, chairperson of the Nissan AMIEO region, said: “I pay tribute to Kevin’s inspirational leadership. It is truly an outstanding life’s work.
“He was part of the team trusted to set the direction for Sunderland Plant right from the very start, and his commitment, knowledge and fantastic skill as a leader have influenced Nissan’s manufacturing teams across the world.
“It is no exaggeration to say that Nissan Sunderland Plant would not be the beacon of success that it is today without the exceptional service of Kevin Fitzpatrick.”
In Mr Fitzpatrick’s time, Sunderland has become the UK’s biggest ever car plant, launching more than 20 new models and growing into a team of 6,000 people. The plant has delivered models like Micra, Qashqai and Juke, as well as pioneering electric vehicle and battery production in Europe with LEAF. The plant has now made more than 10 million cars.
A former apprentice, Mr Fitzpatrick’s passion for skills and training provided the drive for the creation of the Nissan Skills Foundation in 2014. The foundation inspires young people to choose careers in engineering and manufacturing, and more than 75,000 students have now taken part in the programme.
His influence also extends to the wider region, and he was instrumental in the creation of the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) in 2015, and was its first chairman.
Recently he played a huge role in securing a £1bn investment for the world-first EV36Zero project – a legacy that leaves Nissan’s UK plant and the wider AMIEO business in a great position for the future.
Mr Fitzpatrick’s retirement triggers promotions for two long-serving members of the team who have also risen through the ranks of Nissan since arriving in the company as graduates.
Replacing Mr Fitzpatrick as AMIEO region senior vice president is Alan Johnson, currently vice president for manufacturing in the UK. He has held a host of senior positions across the company, both in Sunderland and across Europe, since joining Nissan in 1991.
Mr Johnson will be replaced as vice president for manufacturing in the UK by current production director Adam Pennick. Mr Pennick joined the company in 1997 and has worked in leadership positions across the plant.
Commenting on his retirement, Mr Fitzpatrick said: “I consider myself very lucky to have been part of Nissan’s journey and am extremely proud of what we have achieved.
“We’ve started another exciting chapter in the company’s history, towards full electrification and carbon neutrality. I’m really excited for the team, and even more excited to drive those future Nissan models.”