Northern Powerhouse boss says Nissan's U-turn on X-Trail production shows 'lack of confidence' in future of car building in Sunderland

Nissan's decision to scrap plans to build the X-Trail in Sunderland shows a 'lack of confidence' in the future prospects of building cars in Sunderland, a Northern Powerhouse Partnership director has said.

Monday, 4th February 2019, 4:56 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 4:33 pm
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership

The Japanese car giant confirmed yesterday it had cancelled plans to build the new model at its Wearside plant - making a U-turn on its 2016 announcement.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership

Outside the Sunderland plant today, Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, spoke of his concerns as he called for the Prime Minister to rule out no deal.

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He said: "I think on behalf of business leaders and political leaders across the north of England we're frankly very concerned about what has happened here at Nissan.

"This shows a significant lack of confidence from the parent company in the future prospects of the UK economy and for the future prospects of building cars here in Sunderland.

"Although it is heartening that there is no immediate threat to jobs here I think we've got to realise that if we do proceed towards a disorderly Brexit if we proceed towards a no deal that's managed, all of those things will take us out of the customs union and will probably mean the end of car making, eventually, here in Sunderland.

Sunderland's Nissan plant

"And with this being absolutely integral not just to the Sunderland economy but to the economy across the North East and the wider north of England, we cannot allow that to happen.

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"It's a huge blow and I think what you've got to think about is the fact that the amount of development around here and the amount of businesses that want to locate here in the wider Sunderland area, across Wearside, to be near Nissan because of what has been brought here, this huge centre for automotive and wider manufacturing.

"The reality is this is a massive knock of confidence not just to the supply chain but wider businesses that were wanting to locate here.

"Fundamentally if Nissan can't be sure it can commit to the future of the UK and the future of this area it makes it much harder for other investors to make the same judgement when they haven't got as much invested here."

Nissan confirmed that future models planned for the Sunderland plant - the next-generation Juke and Qashqai - are unaffected.

Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Academic Dean, Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism, said, in isolation, the decision to build the X-Trail at its Kyushu plant in Japan.

He said: “Nissan Sunderland’s operation is proven as a world class facility and has had some amazing successes in recent times with the Qashqai and Juke models.

“The addition of the X-Trail would have been a bonus to the already strong production profile of the plant. Like any global organisation Nissan is concerned with optimising its activities across the supply chain, wherever they may occur.

“The change to Japan - or to other areas - is not unusual therefore, as markets and their requirements naturally shift and manufacturers respond accordingly. In isolation it’s a ripple in the road. If this occurred in conjunction with a number of other similar decisions then that would be more concerning. As this time however it most usefully focuses attention on the job in hand.”