Along with a new UK battery facility, yesterday marked the culmination of a £420 million investment by the Japanese car manufacturer.
The Prime Minister described it as a great day for the country as he attended the production launch of the new vehicle.
David Cameron was also shown a Leaf that was cut in half, to see how it works, and got the chance to stick a Nissan badge on to the front of one of the cars fresh off the production line.
“It is a huge privilege as Prime Minister to be here at this incredible plant today and to see this incredible new car,” he said.
“This plant, all of the people who work here, the cars being produced behind me, are the best possible rebuke to those who say in Britain we don’t design things anymore, we don’t make things anymore.
“You have shown here at Nissan in Sunderland that we can and we can do it brilliantly.”
Nissan’s executive vice-president Andy Palmer said: “The Leaf is our most technically advanced car yet and the launch of this new model, built along with its batteries in Sunderland, is a huge boost not only for the plant but for British manufacturing.
“We could not have reached this point without the support and commitment we have enjoyed from governments across Europe, especially the British government.”
The Leaf model is already in production at plants in Japan and the US.