Nissan GB has said that it will bring EV battery production to the UK as part of a renewed commitment to car manufacturing at its Sunderland Plant in light of the Brexit deal.
In the four years since 2016 the Japanese carmaker’s investment in the facility has slumped by 71% as it re-stated that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would render its UK operation “unsustainable” – threatening the future of its 6,000 employees.
But Nissan's chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta has told the BBC that the UK Government’s trade deal with the EU has “created a competitive environment for Sunderland” adding: “We are taking this opportunity to redefine auto-making in the UK.”
Nissan now plans to move production of its the 62kWh battery packs to Sunderland in order to avoid tariffs resulting from the EU’s rules of origin stipulation on zero-tariff imports.
Trade rules agreed with the EU require at least 55% of the car's value to be derived from either the UK or the EU, but batteries for the Leaf are currently imported into the UK from Japan.
News of the change of stance from Nissan – in light of the Brexit trade deal – came as the brand paused one of its two production lines in Sunderland due to COVID-prompted supply chain disruption.
The issues have hampered the production of various UK-based OEMs at the start of 2021.
Despite the ongoing hurdles posed by the pandemic, however, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was celebaring news of Nissan’s commitment today. He said: “This is a great vote of confidence in the UK and fantastic news for the brilliant Nissan workforce in Sunderland and electric vehicle manufacturing in this country.”
Former Secretary of Trade for Transport and Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, Baron Adonis, was quick to suggest that Nissan had merely granted the Nissan Sunderland plant a “stay of execution”, however.
He said: “Don’t be fooled by Johnson’s hype. The good news is that Nissan isn’t closing Sunderland as was feared, but there’s no new investment or new models.”
Adonis’ claims appear to contradict reports in the Financial Times today which suggest that Nissan could also bring new models to Sunderland.
The FT said that, with Sunderland currently running at just over half its potential capacity, it could feasibly take on production of the new X-Trail and Ariya EV.
Plans to build the X-Trail in the UK were scrapped by the OEM back in 2019.