Nissan decided against assigning the Sunderland plant to make the new Ariya model. All hopes to increase if not secure production in Britain with the new electric car are dashed as the company appears to have changed plans, possibly due to a no-deal Brexit.
When Nissan presented the Ariya this summer, they still had their eyes on manufacturing the European allocation in the UK. Now it looks like Nissan has decided against strengthening its foothold on the Isles.
Nikkei states the hard Brexit, meaning the UK leaving the European Union with no trade agreement at the end of the month, as the reason for the withdrawal.
The company has not confirmed this line of thought. However, Nissan will produce the Ariya in Japan for export to Europe when the vehicle goes on sale next year and executives said, this had always been an option, according to Autonews.
The same could be said of persisting pressures on UK car manufacturing due to the Brexit situation. A no-deal Brexit will see British car exports face a ten-percent tariff in the EU. It would increase the cost of UK-made electric cars exported to the EU by an average of £2,000 per vehicle, according to a study conducted by SMMT. By comparison, vehicles made in Japan face a lower 7.5 per cent tariff which, in 2026, will be abolished entirely. Japan’s EPA with Britain takes effect next month and will similarly cancel the auto-tariff as the Japan-EU trade deal.
Handling Ariya models heading to Europe and the United States will be Nissan’s plant in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture just north of Tokyo. Meanwhile, Nissan will manufacture those sold in China locally.
The decision is a blow for Sunderland. The plant has been making the Nissan Leaf EV since 2013 and continues to produce the new model-year of the Leaf. The Ariya, however, is the first electric car Nissan designed from the ground-up since introducing the Leaf almost ten years ago. It sits on a new platform that the company considers laying grounds for the entire group and future EVs.
While the Ariya won’t be made there, Nissan did confirm the Qashqai for production in Sunderland. The compact SUV will be the first Nissan model in Europe to be equipped with the e-Power hybrid drive. Still, a plug-in hybrid is not planned for the time being as reported. The model will also be the first European Nissan sitting on the CMF-C platform from the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.
Nissan Sunderland’s plant profitability is heavily based on exports to the EU. More than 50% of the cars made there are sold in the rest of Europe, DW writes, underlining why the company is so keen for tariff-free trade to continue.
Carmakers with a large UK presence such as Nissan or BMW have repeatedly made it clear that continued frictionless trade with the EU would be vital in determining if they stay in the country when Brexit happens. Rumours had it more than once that Nissan was to close Sunderland entirely with the company yet having to make an official statement confirming a direction.
Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta has said that Brexit-induced tariffs could render the company’s UK business and Sunderland plant unsustainable. The factory is the largest car plant in the UK and produces around 350,000 cars a year.
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