News : Nissan secures Sunderland’s future

Nissan’s highly-successful Sunderland factory, located in Washington, will remain open following a wide-ranging global re-organisation of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. With partner Renault aiming to move more production to France, news that the UK factory has been chosen in favour of Nissan’s Barcelona plant is clear support for the British operation.

The global restructuring has taken place as a response to the Alliance’s $6.2bn (£5bn) net loss in the last financial year. It’s hoped that the measures will secure the Alliance’s European heart as Nissan has been forced to cut production as a result of a fall in sales before and during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The restructure is wide-ranging with future model lines across Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi being platform-shared PSA- or Volkswagen Group-style.

Nissan had, of course, already made a firm commitment to its Sunderland plant in March 2020, confirming that the next-generation Qashqai will be built there. It remains the UK’s largest car factory, employing some 7000 people, and capable of producing more than half-a-million cars per year. The good news is that, in Nissan’s slimmed down model range, the emphasis will be placed on electric vehicles, such as the UK-built Leaf, and sports cars – does that mean the Qashqai will eventually make way for the Renault Kadjar in European markets? We’ll see – as this would be a gamble considering the Qashqai’s enduring success.

Car manufacture has already returned to the Nissan Sunderland plant on a strict social -distancing basis. Post restructuring, Nissan will be focusing on several key markets, including Japan, North America and China, with Renault being increasingly positioned as the Alliance’s main European presence. Will this mean that Renaults will be built in Washington as part of a new post-Brexit strategy?

This is great news for UK manufacturing, but this is the beginning of what promises to be a tumultuous few years for the industry as a whole. The question of who will be standing at the end of it is already coming into focus.

Keith Adams

51 Comments

    • Hate is a strong word, used liberally by both sides in the Brexit debate.
      But why would anyone ‘hate’ this news?

      • There do seem to a number of remainer extremists who appear to be quite determined to do and say whatever they can to make Brexit a disaster. I think the use of the word ‘hate’ may well be appropriate for their feelings towards this very good news.

        The scenes of violence outside the Nissan plant in Barcelona after receiving the news that it is to close really (I think) rather underlines part of the reason why Sunderland has prevailed over the Spanish plant.

    • Not really, it shows that they have enough faith that the UK with rejoin the Eu in the near future, maybe once the clique of billionaire tax dodgers lose the support of their brainwashed voting fodder.

    • Which has little to do with brexit. The reality is brexit locks us out of European supply chains and European markets. I would love to be proved wrong but I have major worries for what is left of our manufacturing. There is no place for customs checks and red tape in just in time supply chains.

      Lets see what the state of the car industry is in five year time, before getting out the bunting.

  1. This is fantastic news for Sunderland and the UK (obviously not good if you work for them in Barcelona).

    How nice to see something positive for the UK after so much, understandable, negativity recently.

    If they did start making Renaults it wouldn’t be the first time they made them in the UK either!

  2. Discarding the Qashqai in favour of the Kadjar (those names are difficult to type!) would be an own goal of epic proportions.

    • They are very much one in the same, with the floor pan and gearbox and some engines shared between them already. From two friends who own a kadjar they have been very impressed having them for 2 years so far and no probs. One of them had transferred from a Nissan joke which she was not impressed by.

      • I was aware that there was little difference between the two, however I believe Renault’s image and reputation in the UK doesn’t match that of Nissan. Anecdotal evidence like the experience of your friends’ means little measured against public perception. People like, and buy, the Qashqai.

          • Good point. Nissan rep is not as good as it once was in the marketplace. The last shape Micra started it all off, getting terrible reviews, while the Qashqai has a reputation for unreliable automatic boxes. I know three people who all had the same issue, and have gone over to the manual and no probs. Nissan dealers are also getting a reputation, another friends Joke went wrong, and was quoted an extorniate amount. As it just gone out of warranty she went to her local independent who repaired it for a 1/3 of the price with genuine parts.

  3. Good news as there has been some concern over the factory in Sunderland when the X Trail wasn’t moved there and the Infiniti was cancelled, although more to do with poor sales than Brexit. This does prove that Nissan are unlikely to ditch their most productive and successful factory in Europe.

  4. Excellent news for the Sunderland workers; they must be breathing an understandable sigh of relief in the knowledge that for now, their jobs are secure. The closure of the Barcelona plant and its resulting violence, is certainly connected to Catalan separatism…which has only subsided a little lately, due to a certain virus. . Given the radicalism and hot-headedness of the separatists, combined with their anti-capitalism and also economically suicidal anti-tourism, I am quite sure that Nissan’s decision of which plant to shut down, was not a difficult one. In closing, though, I will comment on the obvious: while the Nissan plant involves British workers and has other secondary economic ramifications for Britain, it is a Japanese company and not a British one.

  5. Doesn’t the Barcelona plant used for producing commercial vehicles such as the Navarra pick up and the NV200 van so that the two factories are really two different types of plant.

  6. I wonder if this is as it seems? On the surface, good news indeed for the region and indeed GB. But I’m not sure it makes total sense and I’m smelling a rat.

    They clearly need to reduce capacity so the Barcelona story facilitates this and with the handy cover of COVID19. Macron has made is clear that he wants French manufacturers to repatriate manufacturing for state aid. Another box ticked.

    BUT….. what happens when we crash out of transition period with no deal. 10% tariff on cars into EU. zero tariff on cars that arrive in EU from Japan. Do the maths. Sunderland was never going to survive under these parameters.

    So I just wonder. Close the more complicated one to justify under cover of one crisis. knowing that a second crisis is coming which will be unique to another plant.

    Everything back to Japan. Same justification as Honda. Economy of manufacturing scale.

    I don’t know……. but I am suspicious. Perhaps without justification.

    And by the way, I am a remainer. And no, I don’t hate the news. Never bought a car made anywhere but UK in my life. And I hope to keep it that way.

  7. Good news, but then Washington is a VERY efficient plant, it would take something very extreme for it to be at risk. No reason to assume there won’t be any future Qashqais and we’ll all have to buy Renault SUVs instead, but rather that there will be greater integration between models with Renault leading design in Europe. After all PSA manage to produce separate models for all their brands, ditto VW group

    P.S. there’s a slight typo I assume – “The good news is that, in Nissan’s slimmed down model range, the emphasis will be placed on electric vehicles, such as the UK-built Leaf, and SPORTS CARS”

    If only!

  8. It makes sense for Nissan to concentrate on sporty stuff (370z, GTR) leaving Renault to the bread and butter stuff (vans). Nissan doesn’t even needs to make a pickup, as Mitsubishi have that covered.

  9. When Nissan decided to move to Sunderland in the eighties, it probably saved the city which was suffering from the decline of its traditional industries and unemployment over 20%. Now when people think of Sunderland, they’re most likely to think of Nissan Qashqais than shipbuilding and mining. Also would Nissan really want to shut its most productive factory in Europe that can produce half a million cars a year and has never suffered from a single day’s industrial action.

    • The problem is how many parts for the plant are made locally? The Nissan plant is welcome but it is only 7000 jobs. The UK car industry use to support a huge web of small and medium sized British suppliers, which foreign owned plants don’t.

      When we allowed our car industry to decline, it wasn’t just the big car companies that we lost.

      • Many suppliers also came over here and built factories in the UK. Modern manufacturing and “just in time” relies on close relationships with your suppliers

  10. Great news for the UK plants. And of course the French will stand their corner fiercely, why wouldn’t they. The French will only buy French products in many sectors. I know this from experience in the hydraulics business. They also manage state aid for their industries where the UK stuck to the EU rules and MG Rover went under (under a Labour administration) and many uk industries suffered similarly. My 4 cars were all built in the UK and I take pride in this, even though Jag and Honda are foreign owned. ( It will be the last Honda more than likely). The other 2 being MGs.

    • I just want to be clear,that the above Graham is not me the regular Graham.on this site.

      I would not be so badly informed of EU Law to drivel out the claim that the French Government break EU Law supporting Renault or PSA and so ill informed about the history of the British Motor Industry, that the issues MG Rover faced could have resolved by just flinging tax payers money at it and recognise that had the British Government done that to the levels required, you would be breach of both EU and WTO regulations.

      • To be fair to the other Graham, the French have vastly more cases pending against them for breaking subsidy and single market rules than we do. Which suggests he does have a point.

  11. Reply to Ian Parker: You are right that the Washington and Barcelona plants produce different types of vehicles. In reading the Spanish ABC newspaper today, it confirmed my suspicions that it was as political a decision to close the Barcelona plant, as it was an economic one. The more commercial vehicles produced in the Barcelona factory have been experiencing tepid sales. On the political front, the Catalonian assembly line workers, for the past few months, have been striking with some regularity and being quite militant. Furthermore, there has been recent talk from within the national Spanish government–which is a socialist/communist coalition…with a Pablo Iglesias, a true Marxist-Leninist as Vice-President, that the automobile is to be abolished in Spain! Whilst this is not very likely, such far-left talk and such a hostile labour climate in Catalonia, helped Nissan make its decision of which plant in Europe to close first. Add to the mix the uncertainty of whether Catalonia will separate from Spain once the virus subsides, and one can see that Nissan’s decision wasn’t a tough one at all.

    • It was obvious that Nissan no longer wanted a factory that was strike prone and the political situation in Catalonia could have made life difficult for Nissan if Catalonia went independent and the rest of Spain boycotted Catalan products. OTOH Sunderland has enjoyed excellent industrial relations since it opened and even with Brexit, Britain at least doesn’t have a government that includes communists with weird agendas like Iglesias. Of course, things could have been same here if Corbyn had won the last election.

  12. “With partner Renault aiming to move more production to France, news that the UK factory has been chosen in favour of Nissan’s Barcelona plant is clear support for the British operation.”

    Which shows why ownership matters and that letting our car industry collapse and the remnants fall into foreign ownership, which was foolish.

    Sunderland shows there is nothing wrong with British workers, when they are properly managed and backed with upto date plant and equipment.

    We have always had access to worldclass engineers and designers.

    The problem with inept short term British owners and amateurish and incompetent British management, especially senior management. Those issues could have been fixed and we could have a British owned industry to rival that of Germany. Instead we let it collapse.

    Incredibly foolish.

    • Totally true about British management and investors. British management are inept, usually because it is if the face fits not the right person for the job. British investors stick money with fund managers, who are in for themselves, the bigger the profit bigger the gain for them, so short termism happens and companies get sold on and broken up. The 70s and 80s were rife with investment vehicles like Hanson and Cavendish who would buy and asset strip British businesses for greater profits. Its nothing new as Martin Kelham’s second article on the great men of motoring shows.

  13. I know politics and the car industry go hand in hand, but overly partisan, lazy and sometimes bigoted posts will lose this site at least one long-term lurker (and occasional poster). I’m not going to name names but I do wish some of the posters above had thought twice before posting – or headed to the Daily Mail site instead. They are doing an unfair disservice to the creators of this excellent site.

    P.S. I believe Sunderland went down to two shifts not so long ago, but it’s the biggest and most modern of their plants in this part of the world so it isn’t a totally surprisiing decision to keep it. Perhaps they’re playing the long-game and if Brexit goes badly, hoping to take-over the lost sales of continental manufacturers?

    • Mostly well said but wouldn’t someone overly partisan, lazy and sometimes bigoted already be looking at the Daily Mail site?

      • Maybe after they’ve had their fill of hatred and propaganda they’d come here for some light relief and get triggered again by a story like this!

      • Of course there are. Shame Nissan have now just announced they might pull out if a deal as good as the one we currently have isn’t sealed.

  14. As I have understand no deal Brexit means car industry shutdown in UK. Only Aston Martin and also Morgan have decided to stay. Nissan, Toyota and PSA are leaving. It’s not question only taxes, it’s also logistics delays between EU and UK borders which makes car manufacturing really challenning in UK. UK has informed “nice touch” border crossing end of the July 2021, but it’s only one way. When the trucks are coming back to EU, trucks will stay days in the EU custom border. It is end of story.

  15. Any UK Government would suffer at the Ballot box if Car Manufacturing was drastically reduced or ceased at NISSAN Sunderland. When push comes to shove the Tories must do what is necessary to ensure the situation is right (and that goes for PSA, Toyota etc.)

    I just hope it comes good, though Coronavirus has caused much doubt and uncertainty I do admit.

  16. Problem is that there is nothing what your Tories can do. UK concept to pick up only berries has locked the negotiations. Leaving EU means borders, custom checks and custom taxes. It’s your cross what your independence causes. Or then you have do to same way as Norway has get tax free salmons to EU. Norway pays for EU over 1 billion euro’s per year and Norway has to accept all the EU regulations and laws. But UK… time is running out.

  17. I don’t think Boris cares. He’s a one-issue politician. Why else did he decide to formally leave EU in Jan 2020 and then give himself until end of Dec 2020 to ‘try’ to do a deal. The right wing Brexit cheerleading papers in this country (Express, Mail, Telegraph) cannot wait for no deal, are positively encouraging him to ‘not surrender to Brussels’ and leave without one. Meanwhile Covid 19 continues to ravage the country and wreak havoc on the economy. The cynical side of me says Boris will let no deal happen and then blame the economic fallout on Covid rather than his incompetence or unwillingness to negotiate. Loss of manufacturing capacity and jobs will be collateral damage.
    I hope however that events prove me wrong.

  18. Another tiresome Brexit vs Remain debate that never seems to go away. Perhaps it’s more important to celebrate the fact Nissan are committing to the UK rather than pulling out, but the usual petty political rows are more important.

    • Haven’t they just said a no-deal Brexit threatens the future of their UK operations? Is that a petty political row? Brexit v Remain doesn’t go away because the ramifications are so serious.

  19. Again Brexit is shown to be a poorly thought out and implemented. Leaving the EU is complicated and hard and should haver been properly planned. As it is Brexit is pointless

    • Brexit has dropped off the main headlines due to Coronavirus, so attention has been diverted. But remember we did leave the EU on 31st January… pending a trade deal – didn’t we?

  20. Nissan seem to have reinvented themselves in the last 20 years. 20 years ago they were known for making ultra reliable but dull cars, but now make cutting edge cars like the Qashqai. Only thing I have heard is due to the tie up with Renault, they’re not reliable as they used to be and a few surveys rate them below average.

  21. Nissan is now very deep in financial and so it’s Renault (but France government does not admit it’s bankcrupty). So you can expect fast moves in Nissan side. If UK somehow get a alive after it’s EU divorce, it will get followers.

    • Renault has suffered from financial problems over the years, I do remember them culling four model ranges and closing half their British dealerships ten years ago, and their cars do have a reputation for not being very reliable and difficult to repair. I wish Nissan would pull away from Renault and develop their alliance with Mitsubishi, which would be more beneficial as they are known for making very reliable cars and are experts at producing pick up trucks and SUVs.

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