Throughout the Brexit debate, Nissan had been singled out by ‘project fear’ both as an example of manufacturing job loss and an object of ridicule. Suggestions of workers being Turkeys voting for Christmas was a constant comment by Europhiles.
Brexit voters are, of course, mostly fools who don’t know what is good for them – in contrast to all those Remain voters with their degrees and analytical skills. But none are so dim-witted as those in Sunderland who, like turkeys voting for Christmas, chose a course of action which will inevitably lead to them losing their jobs at the city’s Nissan plant. Or so the story goes.
However, it turns out that Sunderland’s Nissan workers are defiantly not quite so stupid as the ” constantly portrayed them, neither are the people in Leave-voting areas who put ‘democracy to the test’ over the economic status quo. The words “Turkeys voting for Christmas” have been constantly used to patronise the overwhelming leave supporting working-class and none more so than Nissan workers in Sunderland. But for these workers, Christmas came early and not a Turkey insight.
The truth is now their democratic vote to leave the EU has been carried out Nissan have not only proclaimed Sunderland their centre of European operations but have said Brexit gives them a competitive advantage.
The UK’s Brexit deal has given Sunderland’s Nissan plant a competitive advantage and secured the future of thousands of jobs across Europe, the car giant’s global chief operating officer has said.
Ashwani Gupta also pledged the firm would ‘take this opportunity to redefine the auto industry in the United Kingdom’.
He stated: “Brexit has brought the business continuity in the short-term, protects 75,000 jobs across Europe and most importantly – all of our models which we manufacture in Sunderland,”
“Brexit has brought Nissan a competitive advantage from being in the United Kingdom as one of the largest automakers, not only for the UK but also outside the UK, and that is why I say Brexit is positive for Nissan.”
All components of the models manufactured at Sunderland were covered by the agreement on rules of origin apart from the 62kw/h batteries required for the new long-range version of the Leaf, he said.
Nissan’s supplier, Envision, will start producing the batteries later this year meaning all products, including the Qashqai e-Power, made in Sunderland, will qualify for the rules of origin.
Asked if the decision marked a long-term commitment to Sunderland, Mr Gupta replied: “Our message is consistent, as of yesterday, as of today, and it will be the same tomorrow. As far as the current business conditions are kept, we are sustainable – not only Sunderland, but the whole European business case.
“If these business conditions are going to change, obviously we have to evaluate our business once again.
“In Europe, when we had to optimise our production capacity, we chose Sunderland over Barcelona.
“We have only one production facility in Europe so this means the Sunderland plant is so important for us.
“That’s why I am challenging Sunderland to keep the competitiveness.”
Mr Gupta said it was too early to say how many new jobs the move would create.
Plant is in the running for more new models
If Sunderland continued to be competitive and the trading conditions did not change, the plant is in the running to produce more new models, bosses say.
Mr Gupta said: “Brexit, with existing conditions, has secured the sustainability and improved the competitiveness of the Sunderland plant – moving forward, the business will be as normal.
“Sunderland is already one of our most competitive plants in the Nissan world. We have a very competitive supply base, including batteries. Brexit gives us the competitive advantage, not only within the United Kingdom, but outside because in how many locations in Europe are the batteries localised?”
Mr Gupta said that having the plant in the UK post-Brexit has given them advantages over some competitors because of the deal.
He said: “In certain conditions, our competitiveness is improved, for some of the cases it is on par, so it depends on segment by segment, market share by market share.
“We will definitely have the competitive advantage on electrified vehicles.”
‘Investment continued through Brexit uncertainty’
The firm had shown faith in the Sunderland plant even while there was uncertainty over what form of a deal – if any – would be reached.
Plant could return to three-shift working
The new Juke was already selling well and if the new Qashqai was a success, the plant could return to three shift working: “We have two lines and are running two shifts,” said Mr Gupta.
“If I take out the pandemic, we can easily do between 320,000 and 350,000. If all the new models are a success, I can go up to 600,000 based on three shifts and two lines.”
Problems at ports are ‘peanuts’
The firm had not been hit by the delays reported at ports by other businesses since Brexit: “When I look at how Nissan has come out of the crises of tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, snow, tornadoes in the United States, and most importantly, the pandemic, the sort of problem we are seeing in the ports is peanuts.
“For a global manufacturer who is running 150 markets and 14 plants across the world, to have additional documentation, to fill a form at the border is nothing. We were prepared for it, we have updated our software, we have updated our processes and today we are successfully running operations.”