Nissan is said to have drawn up a Brexit contingency plan which would see it close European manufacturing plants but drive UK market share to 20% with Sunderland-built products.
The Financial Times today (February 30) reported on the plan, which would include a withdrawal from mainland Europe and a “doubling down” of its UK operations in the event that imports were hit by World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs.
Two sources from within the OEM are said to have been part of the discussions, which the publication tempered with the assertion that the plans were made before Makoto Uchida’s appointment as Nissan chief executive in December.
The FT’s report said that Nissan would use its Sunderland plant to leverage a competitive advantage in the UK as other large-scale importers, including Volkswagen and Ford, were potentially hit with import tariffs.
Nissan denied existence of the contingency plan in a statement issued to the publication, however.
It stated that “the fact remains that our entire business, both in the UK and in Europe, is not sustainable in the event of WTO tariffs”.
The UK Government stated back in February last year that it may ‘review’ a £60m funding package designed to secure production of the new Nissan X-Trail at the manufacturer’s Sunderland plant after plans were revealed to build the SUV in Japan.
Nissan is said to have blamed wider industry pressures on the change of plan, with Brexit “uncertainty” also hampering its future planning in the region.
A government source told The Times “clearly we will be reviewing (the funding package) in the light of this decision.”
Last year Nissan said that it had completed a £100m investment in its Sunderland plant as it prepared for the start of production of the new Juke SUV.
In June, the plant also celebrated the production of its 10 millionth vehicle, 33 years after its first vehicle rolled out of the factory doors.
Speaking at the time, Steve Marsh, Nissan vice president for manufacturing in the UK, said: “We are thrilled to see the Juke in production.
“Our million Juke fans across Europe will be able to see it on the roads very soon.
“Juke is a big part of our plant’s heritage, so it is a proud moment to see the new model rolling off the line.”