Brexit raises doubts in Sunderland

Questions have been raised over Nissan’s continued investment in its car manufacturing plant in Sunderland, where nearly 7,000 people are employed.

The Japanese car manufacturer has already committed to building an updated model of the Qashqai in Sunderland, production of which is expected to begin next year, but Britain’s decision to leave Europe has placed doubts around longer-term projects being awarded to Sunderland.

Nissan plants have to bid against each other for new production contracts, but Sunderland could find it difficult to put together a firm and competitive tender until new trading and customs arrangements have been negotiated with Europe. With 80% of Sunderland’s output exported, tariffs are particularly key to its proposals.

The next major Nissan contract is for the production of the new Qashqai, slated for a 2020 launch. Bidding is expected to start by the end of next year, by which time it is unlikely government negotiations with the European Union will be concluded.

While Nissan would not comment on future project allocations, it has said that UK trade and tariff negotiations with Europe will sway investment decisions. Speaking to the BBC, chief executive Carlos Ghosn said he was ‘reasonably optimistic’ the UK would remain an important partner for Europe, but that decisions were effectively on hold until negotiations are completed.

Nissan’s Sunderland plant is the largest in the UK, producing 500,000 vehicles a year, 60% of which are Qashqais.