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.