Nissan has made clear that it intends to stay in the north east despite concerns Brexit could have led to its Sunderland plant closing. There were fears the Japanese company might have relocated due to tariffs the EU could impose on British exports. But, after talks with the government, the Japanese manufacturer has decided to stay put in our region.
And not only that – Nissan will invest massively in its Sunderland plant. The car giant plans to produce its Qashqai and X-Trail models on Wearside. This will mean an extra shift will be introduced in its factory, leading to the creation of around one thousand new jobs.
The Sunderland plant will become the only factory outside Japan where the X-Trail is built. Nissan has said it wants to turn its Sunderland site into a ‘super-plant’, manufacturing 600,000 cars annually. Colin Lawther, senior Nissan official for Europe, said,
“Our dream is a 600,000-car super plant; there’s not many of those in the world.”
Nissan is already a huge employer in the north east. Its Sunderland plant has over 7,000 workers and another 28,000 jobs are dependent on its supply chain. Any closure or scaling down of the plant would have been a major blow to the north east’s economy. Yesterday, the assembly lines were stopped at 11.00 am so workers could be told the good news. Mr Lawther said,
“There were big cheers. The place was really buzzing because people know what it means for their job security, but also what Nissan’s executive committee think of them as individuals. This is a people story because it’s these people who have won the day.”
Local MP Sharon Hodgson also paid tribute to the plant’s workers. She said, “Credit must go to the workers at the Nissan factory for producing such high quality cars, where nearly 80% of the cars rolling off the production line in Sunderland are exported across the globe”
“The talent and skill of Sunderland’s workforce is showcased across the globe and puts Sunderland very squarely on the map as somewhere for businesses to come and invest.”
— Sharon Hodgson MP (@SharonHodgsonMP) October 27, 2016
Though Nissan’s announcement has generally been greeted positively, concerns have been voiced about a ‘sweetheart deal’ agreed behind closed doors between the carmaker and the government.
After the Brexit vote, Carlos Ghosn, the company’s chief executive, had said that the company could scrap investment plans, stating “if there are tax barriers being established on cars, you have to have a commitment to carmakers who export to Europe that there is some kind of compensation.”
Though neither the government nor Nissan would comment on what had been discussed, some commentators feel the car industry might receive lower energy costs, in addition to government financial help for hiring and training workers.
Downing Street, however, has insisted no special deal has been done. Despite reportedly giving a ‘last minute promise’ to protect Nissan from Brexit, business secretary Greg Clark stressed there had been no official offer of government aid. “I don’t have a cheque book,” he said. “There is no cheque book.”
Since opening its Sunderland plant in 1986, Nissan has invested £3.7 billion in the factory and nearly nine million cars have been built there.