Japanese car giant Nissan has announced that it intends to keep its Sunderland plant open. And the company has also revealed that it is planning a massive increase in production that could create a thousand new jobs.
There had been uncertainty over the fate of Nissan’s Sunderland plant following the Brexit vote, with many in the car industry concerned about the EU imposing tariffs on British exports. But, following reassurances during talks with the government, it seems Nissan is happy to stay in the north east.
Nissan has now pledged to build its new Qashqai and X-Trail models in Sunderland. Sunderland will be the only plant where the X-Trail model is made outside Japan. Nissan has said it wants to transform Sunderland into a ‘super plant’, manufacturing over 600,000 cars per year. 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 has invested over £3.7 billion in their Sunderland factory since its opening in 1986. Nissan is already a major north east employer. Over 7,000 people work at the plant and it is estimated that another 28,000 supply chain jobs depend on it.
Production lines at the factory were halted at 11.00 am yesterday so that workers could be told of the company’s decision. 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 praised the plant’s workers, saying, “Credit must go to the workers at the Nissan factory for their continued hard work in producing such high quality cars, where nearly 80% of the cars rolling off the production line in Sunderland are exported across the globe.”
— Gerry Jackson (@gerrylooknorth) October 27, 2016
The decision has, however, attracted some controversy, with whispers of a ‘sweetheart deal’ between Nissan and the government.
Following the Brexit referendum result, Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s chief executive, had said that the company could scrap investment plans if the government did not compensate it for any tariffs imposed. Both Nissan and the government have refused to say what was promised during their discussions or whether any public money will be involved. A government spokesman said,
“The assurances are we will get the best possible (Brexit) deal. There was no special deal for Nissan.”
There has been speculation, though, that the car industry might receive lower energy costs, as well as government financial help with hiring and training workers.