Headlining a number of gloomy UK Automotive stories is Nissan’s announcement that production of the X-Trail SUV will not be moving to the UK, despite the company having made a commitment that it would be in 2016. The company had told the UK Government that its huge investment in the UK was safe following the UK’s decision to exit from the European Union.
Nissan was one of the first carmakers to get off the fence about Brexit in 2016, announcing that it has been told by the UK Government that trading with the EU would not be impaired following the decision to leave – prompted by that assurance from the UK Government, the company confirmed that production of the X-Trail would move to the UK, alongside its closely-related cousin, the Nissan Qashqai. Nissan’s UK involvement is massive, with more than 442,000 cars a year made assembled in Washington – including the Juke, Leaf, and various Infiniti models alongside the Qashqai.
The story, which broke on Sky News, confirms that Nissan will continue production of the X-Trail in Japan. Critics of Brexit are saying that trading uncertainties leading up to the UK’s exit from the EU on 29 March, will be a factor in Nissan’s decision to consolidate production in Japan. However, in this case, it’s far from the only one. Falling demand for diesel SUVs in Europe as a whole, as well as a not insignificant drop in UK Nissan production, also play a major part. The company says that the decision not to move the X-Trail to the UK won’t have an affect on the 6700 jobs currently held at the plant, near Sunderland.
Nissan’s decision comes as the overall picture for UK car manufacturing continues to get gloomier. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reports that UK car production fell to its lowest level for five years in 2018 with a decline of 9.1% in production over 2017. Exports were down, with output for overseas markets dropping – UK car exports to China slumped 24.5%, while EU demand fell by 9.6%, and registrations of British-built cars in the UK down 20.9%. Moreover, fresh inward investment in UK Automotive is down almost half (a drop of 46.5%) on 2017 to £588.6m.