Nissan has confirmed its Sunderland factory’s long-term future is secure after announcing it is to build more electric vehicle batteries in the UK.
Currently, batteries for the 62kWh Leaf are manufactured in the USA and imported to the UK, while 40kWh units are built at Sunderland by Envision Group, which will also produce the larger batteries.
Moving all battery production to the UK ensures the Leaf will comply with Brexit trade rules agreed with the EU requiring at least 55% of the car’s value to be derived from either the UK or the EU to qualify for zero tariffs when exported to the EU.
Around 70% of Leaf hatchbacks are built for export, with the vast majority sold in the EU.
Ashwani Gupta, chief operating officer at Nissan, told the BBC: “The Brexit deal is positive for Nissan.
“Being the largest automaker in the UK, we are taking this opportunity to redefine auto-making in the UK.
“It has created a competitive environment for Sunderland, not just inside the UK but outside as well.
“We’ve decided to localise the manufacture of the 62kWh battery in Sunderland so that all our products qualify (for tariff-free export to the EU).
“We are committed to Sunderland for the long-term under the business conditions that have been agreed.”
The announcement was welcomed by Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, who said the news was “hugely positive and an essential step in the transformation of the automotive sector to electric motoring”.
He added: “It is an investment that is a direct consequence of the UK agreeing a deal with the EU and providing a much-needed boost to the sector and region.
“The road to zero will require a rapid acceleration in the take-up of these new technologies and massive investment in infrastructure and local capability.
“We have the scale – as a market and as a production location – to warrant the necessary investment but our attractiveness depends on maintaining these advantages and consistently enhancing our competitiveness.
“We need to build on this announcement and implement a strategy which safeguards automotive manufacturing and delivers a rapid transition to the benefit of all society.”
Colin Herron, managing director of Sunderland-based consultancy Zero Carbon Futures, who recently urged Fleet News readers to stay ‘calm and make a considered choice’ when it came to taking on EVs, said he was delighted by the announcement.
“In 2030, all automotive companies will have to have electric vehicles in place, so the more established that plant becomes for making electric vehicles, the more secure it is,” he told the Sunderland Echo.
“The new world is electric and the old world is fading out, so the more electric vehicle production that goes on in that plant, the better.
“It is a massive opportunity for the region.”