Nissan bosses say France row won’t threaten Sunderland jobs

Workers at Nissan's plant in Sunderland on the production line for the Infiniti Q30 "active compact" vehicle, the first major new brand of car to be manufactured in Britain for 23 years. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Workers at Nissan's plant in Sunderland on the production line for the Infiniti Q30 "active compact" vehicle, the first major new brand of car to be manufactured in Britain for 23 years. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
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Nissan bosses downplayed claims a row on the other side of the Channel could threaten jobs on Wearside.

The Times reported that British jobs could be hit if the French government presses ahead with plans to take a major stake in Renault.

The French firm owns more than 43 per cent of Nissan as a result of a deal the two companies struck in 1999 when Nissan was close to collapse.

The news has sparked speculation it may be the first stage of an attempt by French economics minister Emmanual Macron to nationalise Renault and seek to move jobs to France.

Nissan senior management were at the Sunderland plant for the launch of production of the new Infiniti Q30 this morning and Colin Lawther, senior vice-president for Manufacturing, Supply Chain Management and Purchasing in Europe, was quick to pour cold water on the claims any change in Nissan’s French partner could be a threat to the thousands of jobs Nissan supports, directly and indirectly, on Wearside.

“There is politics, there is manufacturing, there is automotive manufacturing, and this is a political story,” he said.

“It is nothing to do with manufacturing, it is nothing to do with Sunderland, it is nothing to do with Infiniti.

“From a manufacturing point of view, Nissan and Renault are very happy with our alliance. We have a very positive alliance,  we both benefit from mutual synergies and we are actually going from strength to strength.

“The issue you are talking about is one between Renault and the French government and really, we don’t want to comment on that. It is a political situation, has no impact on our manufacturing operations.

“Jobs in this plant are not under threat – we have got 6,700 people, we have recruited another 300.”

The firm monitored the performance of its 50 plants worldwide, and Sunderland was consistently in the top five performers, said Mr Lawther.

“It is the third biggest plant in Nissan, it is our flagship, it is at the forefront of productivity in Europe. There is no reason this plant should not have a sustainable future and I can’t see any reason why that should change.”

Chief performance officer Trevor Mann dismissed the claims as ‘speculation that has perhaps gone up the sensational scale.’

The Sunderland plant had always faced challenges he said: “There has always been speculation on where the next Note, Juke or Qashqai will be produced. This plant has always put its best foot forward and risen to every challenge that has been put in front of it.

“So when you have got a good factory that performs very well on quality, cost and delivery, regardless of what else is happening out there, people have got to make business decisions. The best thing this plant can do it to keep doing what it is doing so it makes every business sense to keep producing cars right here in Sunderland.”

“We have had competition and threats since the alliance started and this is just another set of interference as far as I am concerned.

“What we should be doing is focussing on what we are doing, which is working together with Renault to improve the performance of both companies.

“That is where my focus is and that is what I would like our people to do.”