Nissan new X-Trail to be made in Japan instead of Sunderland

The Japanese firm announced plans to build the next generation of both the X-Trail and Qashqai SUVs at the plant in 2016, securing the future of the plant that employs around 6700 people.

The company said planned investment in the next-generation Juke and Qashqai, also announced in 2016, was unaffected.

"While we have taken this decision for business reasons, the continued uncertainty around the UK's future relationship with the European Union is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future", said Nissan Europe Chairman Gianluca de Ficchy.

Nissan said: "The company has chose to optimise its investments in Europe by consolidating X-Trail production in Kyushu, the production hub for this global model".

According to Sky News, the Japanese company will announce on Monday that instead of ploughing a significant investment into the Sunderland factory to make the vehicle here - as it originally said it would do after receiving government "reassurances" about Brexit in 2016 - it will cancel the plans and manufacture it elsewhere.

The Rogue, the X-Trail's North American sibling, is built in Tennessee.

While Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, Bridget Phillipson, said if the move is confirmed it would "represent deeply troubling news for the North East economy".

Most of the cuts will be in the United Kingdom, with a voluntary programme being launched, and are in addition to 1,500 workers who left the company past year.

Nissan is now the second largest car-maker in the United Kingdom and produces its electric auto, the Leaf, and a number of other models like the Juke and CX30 in the North East, with a total of 440,000 vehicles produced there in 2018.

"These rumours are disturbing and will cause the workforce to have a very anxious weekend even though production of the X-Trail would have necessitated additional jobs on site", he said.

A letter from the chairman of Nissan Europe to Sunderland factory staff, which has been obtained by Sky News, confirmed the news and telling them the model will continue to be made in Japan.

And Nissan is part-owned by France's Renault, which could move production to France in future to avoid any post-Brexit EU tariffs.

The UK's Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said leaving the European Union on March 29 without a transition deal to preserve the smooth flow of parts and finished vehicles across European Union borders would cause "permanent devastation" to the British auto industry.

A source told Reuters at the time that Nissan received a letter from the government promising extra support in the event that Brexit hit the competitiveness of the Sunderland plant.

  • Tracy Klein