Nissan’s Sunderland factory is safe as the firm announces it will become a European manufacturing hub.
In a press conference broadcast from Japan this morning the manufacturer said it will be closing its factory in Barcelona as it admitted its brand had been ‘severely damaged’ with losses last year of £306m (40.5bn Yen).
It is now likely that some Renault models, built in other countries, could be built in Sunderland as the alliance looks to increase efficiencies.
Stephen Ma, Nissan CFO, said: ‘In western Europe, we will maintain production of core models in Sunderland and maintain efficiency.’
The future of the Sunderland plant – which produces cars such as the Qashqai, Leaf and Juke – has been uncertain for some time, but fresh confirmation by Nissan as part of its ‘Transformation Plan’ has confirmed the Japanese car maker sees the site as a core part of its European presence.
A spokesman for Nissan GB said: ‘Sunderland remains an important part of our plans for the European business. The new Juke was recently launched, and the plant is now preparing for the arrival of the new Qashqai.
‘Europe will remain an important part of Nissan’s global business. We have more than three decades of history in Europe, where Nissan created the crossover segment and took the lead in the rollout of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.
‘The company will be focusing on core models and technologies, which in Europe is our range of crossovers and electrified technologies.’
The Renault Nissan Mitsubishi alliance announced yesterday that it was looking to ensure its factories work at 100 per cent capacity and with Renault Nissan models sharing platforms, the chances of both brands being made in Sunderland now looks likely.
Renault and Nissan already make the Micra, Clio and Zoe in the Flins factory in France so building models from both companies in the same plant is not unusual.
David Bailey, professor of business economics at the Birmingham Business School, said this is great news for the UK automotive industry.
He said: ‘With Nissan closing its Barcelona plant this could mean some Renault SUV production being shifted to Sunderland with Renault, Nissan and – down the line – Mitsubishi models being made off the same platforms.
‘This will safeguard the Sunderland plant in the short to medium term which is a huge dose of good news for UK auto given the Brexit uncertainty that has swirled around the plant.’
Nissan said it will be focussing on reducing costs and cutting models from its ranges and will instead focus on electric vehicles and SUVs as it unveiled huge losses for 2019.
Confirming its commitment to Europe, the brand said the market remains ‘important’ to the brand and recognised that the automotive industry is in a ‘period of transition’.
Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida told the press conference: ‘We must focus on a growth path, as we have greater potential than that of today. We have learned from past mistakes and we have great assets. But we must admit failures and take corrective actions.’
Uchida said he was also reducing his pay for the first half of the year by 50 per cent, while other executives will cut their pay by 20 per cent.
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