Nissan has said the future of its Sunderland factory is secure for the long term after hailing the Brexit trade deal as ‘positive’.
Committing to producing new long-range electric vehicle batteries at the plant, the manufacturer said that the Brexit deal will give Sunderland a ‘competitive advantage’.
Chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta told the BBC: ‘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.
‘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.’
He added: ‘Sunderland is already one of our most competitive plants in the Nissan world. We’ve been there for more than 35 years, which means we have a very competitive supply base.’
The Financial Times reports that Nissan may even consider adding new models to the Sunderland plant with the X-Trail and Ariya being considered by bosses.
The news comes as Nissan said it will be stopping production on one of its lines today as ports disruption have affected its supply chain.
The stoppage means Qashqai and Leaf production will be affected, but Nissan expects the line to resume next week.
Nissan has issued several warnings about the damage a no-deal Brexit would have had on the plant.
At the end of last year the firm it had ‘no Plan B’ for Sunderland in the event of no deal and said the plant would not be viable if a deal couldn’t be reached.
Europe chairman Gianluca de Ficchy told a news conference before the Christmas Eve deal was signed: ‘If a no-deal scenario means the sudden application of WTO tariffs, we know in that case our business model won’t be sustainable in the future.’
The news that Nissan is now committing to the UK will be a welcome relief to the north east where thousands of jobs rely on the factory.
The decision to make the long-range batteries at the plant could even lead to more jobs on Wearside.
Gupta believes the 2030 ban on combustion engined cars could benefit Nissan too with electric models rising in popularity from 2024.
He told Sky News: ‘I think that the UK gets the advantage by having the battery localised already.
‘We are going to explore this opportunity from now onwards – not only battery, but electrified vehicles. That’s where we believe Brexit brings the competitive advantage to Nissan as a homemaker.’
Speaking about the impact on parts that has forced to close the production line today, Gupta said that changes to customs procedures had had no impact on Nissan because of its scale.
He said: ‘The sort of problems that we are seeing in the ports is peanuts, frankly. For a global manufacturer that is running 150 markets and 40 plants around the world, to have additional documentation and to fill out a form at the border, it’s nothing.
‘We were prepared for it, we had upgraded our software and our processes, it’s okay. Of course when you bring a change you need to have agility, to adapt to the new change – that’s the beauty of the organisation.’
The positive news from Nissan comes a few days after question marks were raised over the future of Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port factory with a decision on its fate expected within weeks.
Britain’s upcoming 2030 ban on pure petrol and diesel cars is being cited as one of the main reasons why the outlook for the Cheshire factory – which builds the Astra – is in doubt.