Nissan's Infiniti brand to stop producing models in Sunderland this year as part of withdrawal from Western Europe in early 2020
Nissan has today announced that Infiniti, its premium brand, is to stop producing models at its Sunderland plant by mid-2019.
In a statement, it confirmed Infiniti is to undergo a major restructuring plan.
As part of that, production of the Q30 and QX30 is to cease by mid-2019 at the manufacturing location in Sunderland.
The company said it was unable to say how many jobs on Wearside would be affected by this news but the Echo understands that around 250 people work on producing the Q30 and QX30 models.
Infiniti said: "Plant management will discuss any impact on the plant with employees and their representatives."
Back in September 2013, Sunderland was named as the first Infiniti production site in Europe, marking a £250m investment. In December 2015, the Infiniti Q30 model began production at the new 25,000 sqm facility.
Last year, Nissan's Sunderland plant produced around 500,000 vehicles. Of those, 12,000 were of the Infiniti brand.
The full statement read: "Infiniti Motor Company has today announced a restructuring plan that will focus the brand on its largest growth markets, specifically North America and China, while withdrawing from Western Europe.
"This restructuring plan will have no impact on Infiniti’s ongoing operations in Eastern Europe, Middle East and, Asia, which continue to grow.
"As part of the plan, Infiniti will electrify its portfolio from 2021 onward, discontinue diesel offerings and focus its resources on its biggest opportunities. The Company will place more focus on its SUV lineup in North America, bring five new vehicles to China over the next five years, work to improve quality of sales and residual value, and realize more synergies with Nissan Motor Company. This is all part of Infiniti’s vision to become a top challenger brand in the premium segment.
"In anticipation of its planned withdrawal from Western Europe in early 2020, the Company is working to find alternative opportunities for any employees who would be affected, consulting with employee representatives where necessary and identifying opportunities for transition and training support where appropriate. Once this is complete, Infiniti will work with its retailers to conclude end of franchise agreements, providing the support and services necessary to ensure a smooth transition.
"Infiniti retail operations are to remain operational until a tailored transition plan is put in place for continued aftersales services, including vehicle servicing, maintenance and warranty repairs. For additional information, customers can contact their local Infiniti customer services center (see below) or visit the ownership section of the Infiniti website http://www.infiniti.eu/.
"As a result of this restructuring plan, production of the Q30 and QX30 is to cease by mid-2019 at the manufacturing location in Sunderland, UK. Plant management will discuss any impact on the plant with employees and their representatives.
"Infiniti and Nissan Motor Corporation are confident in this restructuring plan for the long-term vision and success of the brand, for its employees, customers and shareholders."
The Leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Graeme Miller, said: "Many car and vehicle companies across the UK, Europe and the world, have been experiencing difficulties recently.
"As one of the biggest vehicle manufacturing plants in Europe, Nissan was likely to be affected and I have every sympathy for staff who could be losing their jobs.
"With its strong, efficient and productive past, I share the belief of many that the Sunderland plant is well-placed to come out of the sector’s current difficulties."
A Government spokesperson said: "As Infiniti has said, this is a global commercial decision to withdraw from Western Europe to focus on Infiniti’s growth market in North America and China. Regardless, this is a disappointing decision for the up to 250 dedicated workers at Sunderland who could be affected – but the company’s commitment to find alternative opportunities for those employees is welcome.
"Nissan has reiterated its commitment to the UK and its workforce by continuing to manufacture in Sunderland the current Qashqai, Leaf and Juke models, as well as the new Qashqai model."
Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: "I was at the Nissan plant in Sunderland just last month, raising my concern about the troubling U-turn over production of the X-Trail model in Sunderland. Therefore, the announcement today that the Infiniti model will now be ceasing production later on this year, adds further worry about the direction of travel at this vital employer for Sunderland and the wider North East economy.
"It was heartening last month to hear that there was no immediate threat to jobs, but this announcement will only add further uncertainty about the impact of these decisions on jobs, particularly with this production line employing up to 250 people.
"This further knock for confidence in the automotive and wider manufacturing sector in the North East has occured on the same day as the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement is to be voted on by MPs. I repeat my and the concerns of many business and political leaders across the north of England about the threat of a disorderly ‘No Deal’ Brexit and the need this week to ensure when without a deal that we stay in, to secure a continued single market."