Brexit deal is ‘positive for Nissan’ at Sunderland, says global executive

The Government’s Brexit deal has given Nissan a competitive advantage and should lead to new jobs on Wearside, a leading company executive has said.

Ashwani Gupta, who is Nissan’s chief operating officer, said the deal reached just before Christmas meant almost all of the vehicles produced at its Washington plant would continue to be exported to Europe tariff-free.

Only a high-end model of the Nissan Leaf is not covered by the post-Brexit deal as its powerful battery is not produced in the UK.

As a result, Nissan has decided to switch production of that battery to the Envision plant next to its factory, creating jobs there.

Mr Gupta’s welcoming of the Brexit deal comes after many years of concerns from Nissan about how the UK’s trading relationship with Europe would be affected by the 2016 referendum.

He had himself warned the company’s business model was ‘not viable’ if the post-Brexit deal added tariffs to cars exported to Europe or introduced delays to its ‘just-in-time’ supply chain.

However, his comments that “Brexit for Nissan is positive” will boost both staff at the Washington plant and the Government, coming as problems arising from the the deal with the EU are increasingly emerging.

Mr Gupta said: “What this Brexit deal has brought to us, in the short term it has brought short-term business continuity. It has protected 75,000 direct and indirect jobs across Europe and most important, all of our models manufacturered in Washington qualify as local origin except the Leaf higher-range battery.

Nissan chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta unveils a new press at its Sunderland plant
(Image: publicity handout from Nissan)

“We decided today to get those from the Envision factory, which means all of our products, including the Qashqai E-power, which are we going to launch from Washington will also qualify.

“That means Brexit has brought Nissan a competitive advantage for being in the UK as one of the largest automotive companies, not only for UK but also outside the UK.

“That’s why I say that Brexit is positive for Nissan.”

The Nissan plant benefits from a close relationship with the Envision electric battery plant, which was launched as an in-house offering by Nissan but sold to new Chinese owners in 2019.

Mr Gupta did not rule out buying batteries from other sources, including from the Britishvolt gigafactory being planned for Blyth, Northumberland, if demand for electric cars increased.

Nissan’s global operations have suffered from a turbulent period in recent years, the high-profile departure of chairman Carlos Ghosn followed by a slump in sales that led to thousands of job losses.

The Wearside plant lost two models due to be produced there after the Brexit referendum and employment levels were cut.

However, the company also invested in a new press and announced at the end of last year that a new model Qashqai would be built at the plant..

Mr Gupta said Nissan would “continue to invest in the UK as far as the business conditions are consistent with how they are today.

He added that “Brexit has secured the sustainability and improved the competitiveness of the Washington plant.”

He also insisted the company had not suffered as many problems as other manufacturers from post-Brexit teething problems in its supply chains.

Chronicle Live – Sunderland