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Nissan could introduce Renault production to UK Sunderland plant

The production line at Nissan's Sunderland manufacturing plant

Nissan could accommodate production of Renault’s Captur and Kadjar SUVs at its UK plant in Sunderland as part of a shake-up of its European car manufacturing operations.

Japanese financial newspaper, Nikkei Shimbun, reported that the carmaker may look to shut a plant in Barcelona and switch some of its production to Sunderland as it considers steps to cut global vehicle production by around 20%.

The Nikkei reported that the Alliance partners may also shift production to France, from the Spanish plant, as part of cost cutting measures.

Sunderland currently has spare capacity following the end of Infiniti Q30 and QX30 crossover production last year.

Nissan’s described reports about Renault production at the plant as “speculative”, but said that the company would be making an announcement on production changes later month.

“On May 14, 2020, the Nikkei Shimbun published a speculative story on Nissan’s future production strategy,” the Japanese carmaker said.

“Nissan has not made any official statement on this subject. Nissan’s mid-term planning is in progress and has not been concluded yet.

“As announced earlier, Nissan will announce a revised mid-term plan along with fiscal year 2019 financial results on May 28.”

Nissan announced last year that it would reduce global production by 10% and cut around 12,500 jobs worldwide.

Vehicle production at the Sunderland plant was suspended in March as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Nissan is looking at a phased resumption of production at the start of June, according to reports in Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle newspaper.

Back in February AM reported on a Financial Times article which claimed that Nissan had 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 newspaper reported the plan 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.

It said that two sources from within the OEM were 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 at the time, 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”.


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