Nissan has announced that the next-generation X-Trail for the European market will be produced in Japan and not in Sunderland, as announced in 2016.
Whilst a number of factors are thought to be behind the decision, not least the slump in diesel sales, Nissan Europe chairman Gianluca de Ficchy said that the UK’s impending exit from the EU was also a factor. “The continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future,” he said.
Nissan had previously pledged to produce the new model at its Sunderland plant following assurances from the UK government, a decision hailed at the time by Theresa May as a “vote of confidence [that] shows Britain is open for business and that we remain an outward-looking, world-leading nation.”
Whist the company claims that existing production and the almost 7000 jobs at the plant are safe, the decision to cancel X-trail production at the site – which was expected to create hundreds of new jobs – has caused a great deal of concern. “We remain seriously concerned though that the apprenticeships and additional jobs that come with future investment and which this community so desperately needs will be lost,” said Unite’s Steve Bush.
Local MP for Sunderland central Julie Elliot, described the decision as “devastating news” for the city and said in a statement “we cannot deny the inevitable role that Brexit has played in this.”
Meanwhile, talking to the Financial Times, the government’s business secretary Greg Clarke described Nissan’s decision as a “warning sign” of the damage that would be caused by a no-deal Brexit.
Nissan’s decision follows December’s ratification of a free-trade deal between the EU and Japan, which has contributed to concerns that Japanese firms will reconsider their investments in the UK once it leaves the EU.