A threat last week by Nissan president Carlos Ghosn to halt further investment at the company’s Sunderland plant if the pound remains strong could come to nothing because a lack of suitable alternatives sites, it has emerged this week.
Sunderland produces about 100,000 units each of the Micra, Primera and Almera models per year. At the end of this year a decision will be made on where to base production of the new Micra.
Ghosn suggested that the new model might be built at Nissan’s Iberica plant in Barcelona, rather than at Sunderland, if the present exchange rate continues.
But the Iberica plant will be almost at full production soon with the new Almera Tino.
Asked why the Iberica plant was selected for the new model, Carlos Morant, Almera Tino project manager said: `This plant is very good at medium volumes. Sunderland is set up to produce hundreds of thousands of units.’
According to one industry observer, Nissan has little scope for relocation: `A lot of Renault capacity is jam-packed,’ he said. `Where they do have some spare capacity is at Barcelona, even with the new model Tino. But the Micra is a 250,000 unit-per-year car, and Barcelona can produce, at most, 125,000 vehicles.’
Another possibility would be for the company to use one of its partner Renault’s plants to build the new Micra. But Renault’s Flin factory, near Dieppe, that builds the Clio is believed to be close to full production.
However, relocation would be a logical move in the long term, according to professor Garel Rhys, director of the centre for automotive industry research at Cardiff University.
`It would make a lot of sense to move production. Nissan could reduce the complexity of three models at Sunderland and sim-plify its logistics elsewhere because the Micra and Clio will share a platform,’ Rhys said.
* Feature, page 25
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