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Nissan pledges future to UK after Brexit deal

Sunderland builds the Qashqai crossover

Nissan said its plant in north east England is secure for the long term as a result of the trade deal reached between the UK and the EU.

It said it will move additional battery production close to the plant where it has 6,000 direct employees and supports nearly 70,000 jobs in the supply chain.

This will ensure its cars comply with trade rules agreed with the EU requiring at least 55% of the car’s value to be derived from either the UK or the EU to qualify for zero tariffs when exported to the EU.

Currently, the batteries in its Leaf electric cars are imported from Japan.

Work on its Qashqai crossover SUV and its electric Leaf car has been held up by disruption to supplies caused by the coronavirus restrictions but it expects to be back to normal production next week.

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A spokesman said: “Production on line one at the plant has been paused due to supply chain disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. We anticipate that production will resume on Monday next week.”

About 70% of the cars made in Sunderland are exported and the vast majority of them are sold in the EU.

Nissan had warned that the plant would become unsustainable if Britain had left the EU without a deal.

The last-minute free trade agreement struck on Christmas Eve means the car industry avoided the immediate imposition of tariffs or quotas.

In an announcement that provided some welcome news for beleaguered government ministers, Nissan’s chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta said yesterday: “The Brexit deal is positive for Nissan. Being the largest automaker in the UK we are taking this opportunity to redefine auto-making in the UK.

“It has created a competitive environment for Sunderland, not just inside the UK but outside as well.

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“We’ve decided to localise the manufacture of the 62KW battery in Sunderland so that all our products qualify [for tariff-free export to the EU]. We are committed to Sunderland for the long term under the business conditions that have been agreed.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Nissan’s decision represents a genuine belief in Britain and a huge vote of confidence in our economy thanks to the certainty our trade deal with the EU delivers.

“For the dedicated and highly-skilled workforce in Sunderland, it means the city will be home to Nissan’s latest models for years to come and positions the company to capitalise on the wealth of benefits that will flow from electric vehicle production.”

Nissan’s commitment followed more worrying warnings from the boss of Vauxhall’s parent company last week.

Carlos Tavares, who heads the new Stellantis holding company for Fiat Chrsyler and Peugeot Citroen, said that the future of its Ellesmere Port plant depended on support from the UK government ahead of the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars after 2030.

He said it would make more sense to locate an electric vehicle factory closer to the larger EU market.

The latest moves have prompted further calls from within the automative industry for substantial support for battery and other alternative fuel investment.

Andy Palmer, former boss of Aston Martin and current chairman of electric bus maker Switch Mobility, said that 800,000 jobs depend on the UK government investing in battery technology.



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