Nissan confirms it will build the Qashqai in the UK, plus new X-Trail

October 28, 2016

Nissan has committed to building its new Qashqai in the UK and will add the X-Trail too, in a major boost for Theresa May following the UK’s vote to leave the EU. 

Nissan plays a massive role in UK car industry, making one in three of the cars produced in the UK at its gigantic plant in Sunderland, with around 80% of these cars being exported abroad. 

The decision comes after Nissan chief operating office Carlos Ghosn threatened in September to scrap new investment at its factory in northeast England if it did not get a guarantee of compensation for tariff-related costs resulting from Brexit. 

Ghosn said: ‘The support and assurances of the UK government enabled us to decide that the next-generation Qashqai and X-Trail will be produced at Sunderland. I welcome British Prime Minister Theresa May’s commitment to the automotive industry in Britain and to the development of an overall industrial strategy.’ 

Nissan’s decision has been seen as a key indicator as to Britain’s post-Brexit prospects. Toyota has now summoned its ‘fighting spirit’, adding its support to standing by car production in the UK. 

Notably, Toyota has said it will keep up its UK car production even if trading conditions change, with its most senior western figure, executive vice-president Didier Leroy, saying to the Financial Times that it trusted the UK government to provide ‘fair treatment’ so it can remain competitive. Leroy added: ‘We have a fighting spirit and we fully trust in the people in our UK plant.’ 

The UK government has given Japanese carmaker Nissan a written commitment of extra support if the impacts of Brexit lessen the competitiveness of its Sunderland plant. In return, Nissan must promise new product investments, which it has now done so. 

The plan helps secure the 7,000 employees at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, and 28,000 UK jobs in the supply chain. The Sunderland area overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU, with 61.3% voting for Brexit, raising questions for the future of the plant. 

Opened in 1984, the Sunderland plant was a success story for Margaret Thatcher, and is a symbol for the revival in British carmaking after it nearly collapsed in the 1970s. 

Built upon the former RAF Usworth, Nissan’s Sunderland factory is the largest in the UK, producing 476,000 cars in 2015. Two million of the nine million cars it has produced have been Qashqais. A total of 1,587,677 cars were made in the UK last year, with the other major player being Jaguar Land Rover, which built 489,000 cars.

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