NISSAN has revealed a big boost for its Washington plant as chiefs reveal plans to move all battery manufacturing to British shores.
The company’s COO even went a step further today as he announced a long-term commitment to the north east facility post-Brexit.
Following the agreement of terms of the UK’s Brexit deal, the Japanese automaker was forced to rethink its plans and late last year, it was even believed that a full facility closure was on the cards.
But officials have reaffirmed their commitment to the north east facility with today’s announcement, which will bring all battery building to the UK.
While lower-capacity 40kWh units are currently manufactured at the Washington facility by China’s Envision Group, the larger 62kWh batteries which power the top-range Leaf model are made in the USA and imported to Britain.
In a bid to save cash, Nissan is bringing all production to the UK – a move that is set to help the firm avoid a 70 per cent tariff on exported Leafs. Under the new EU trade deal, penalties can be avoided if no less than 55 per cent of a vehicle’s materials comes from the UK or EU.
In an interview with the BBC, Nissan chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta said: “The Brexit deal is positive for Nissan. Being the largest auto maker 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.”
And while the news comes as a welcome relief to the many employed by the region’s largest firm, Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson believes the government still needs a long-term plan ahead of the 2030 petrol and diesel vehicle ban.
She said: “I welcome the news of Nissan’s confidence and plans to increase battery production at AESC in Washington.
“However, the complex arrangements for automotive rules of origin within the trade deal mean that the goalposts will gradually move as we transition to zero-emissions vehicles. We need the Government to show now that is has a plan for the sector beyond the next couple of years.
“What is outlined in the deal is only the foundations, and not the solution, for the long term continued success of Nissan in the UK. The Government must engage with Nissan, to build the infrastructure for the wider supply chain for batteries and electric vehicles here in the North East.
“That is what is needed by 2025 for the long-term viability of Nissan. We need a clear industrial strategy that supports and delivers for our automotive sector – nothing less.”