A new Nissan model has come off the production line in a move which will help create 500 new jobs at the Japanese car giant's UK plant in the coming months.
The second generation Qashqai is built in Sunderland, where the workforce is set to increase to more than 7,000 for the first time.
The plant makes a car every 61 seconds and exports the Qashqai, Nissan's best-selling model in Europe, to 132 countries around the world.
Nissan's chief performance officer Trevor Mann said: "The Nissan Qashqai blazed a trail when we started production in 2006. It invented the Crossover segment, propelled the Nissan brand in Europe to a new level and helped our plant in Sunderland to set new standards in productivity and quality.
"The new Qashqai, with its bold design and segment-leading technology, will once again elevate Nissan to a new level, as the benchmark for the second generation of Crossovers and our flagship model in Europe."
Asked about the UK economy, he added: "Unemployment seems to be down year on year, almost on a monthly basis, which is sign that the economy is recovering and perhaps the Government policies are working.
"It just goes to show if you can get a competitive manufacturing operation driven by great products, as we are here, there is room for growth."
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "It's great news that the new model Qashqai is rolling off the production line in Sunderland. Nissan supports 40,000 jobs across the UK, and when you add that to the half a billion pound investment that Nissan have made in this country for this new model, it shows how our long term plan is giving companies the confidence to invest and create jobs in Britain."
The new Nissan Qashqai is built on Sunderland's Line 1, which has been running on 24-hour operations since 2010 to meet demand, and where the 100% electric Nissan Leaf is also made.
Around 286,000 Qashqai cars were built last year, with production numbers expected to be similar in 2014.
Nissan builds two other models at the plant - the Note and the Juke.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "The British car industry is thriving - car exports last year brought in £30 billion for our economy - and I welcome Nissan's contribution in delivering this success.
"We want to build on this. That is why we are working together with business to give companies like Nissan the confidence to invest, delivering skilled jobs, driving growth and building a stronger economy."
Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Nissan is a roaring success thanks to the company recognising the value of working with the unions. Not only has the company built over one million cars in the UK over two years, its models are top-quality cars. This is a testament to the productivity and the skills of the Sunderland workforce.
"The success of the British car industry is proof that, with the right support and a positive approach to trade unions, UK manufacturing can flourish. It is about time the Prime Minister stopped attacking unions and woke up to the contribution workers and their trade unions make to UK manufacturing."