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Nissan’s UK plant remains important part of business, says car giant

Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent

Car giant Nissan has stressed its UK plant remains an “important part” of its business after announcing the closure of a factory in Spain.

The Japanese firm announced the closure of its site in Barcelona, with the loss of thousands of jobs, under a worldwide restructuring amid the crisis facing the motor industry because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under a four-year plan, Nissan will cut production capacity and its model range by about a fifth to help cut costs.

The company posted an annual operating loss of 40.5 billion yen (£306.2 million) for the year to March 31.

A spokesman said: “Europe will remain an important part of Nissan’s global business. We have more than three decades of history in Europe, where Nissan created the crossover segment and took the lead in the rollout of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

“As the new Nissan Mid Term Plan explains, the company will be focusing on core models and technologies, which in Europe is our range of crossovers and electrified technologies.

“Sunderland remains an important part of our plans for the European business. The new Juke was recently launched, and the plant is now preparing for the arrival of the new Qashqai.”

Nissan chief executive Makoto Uchida said: “Our transformation plan aims to ensure steady growth instead of excessive sales expansion.

“We will now concentrate on our core competencies and enhancing the quality of our business, while maintaining financial discipline and focusing on net revenue per unit to achieve profitability.

“This coincides with the restoration of a culture defined by ‘Nissan-ness’ for a new era.”

Unite union national officer Steve Bush said: “Unite continues to push for sector level assistance from government to support the transition of our world-class automotive industry in these unprecedented times. But that does not mean we will stand by as companies discuss detrimental measures in reaction to immediate and short-term challenges.

“We are seeking clear assurances from Nissan that the cost-cutting measures spoken about will not impact on our members’ jobs, terms and conditions or other benefits at Europe’s most efficient plant, Sunderland.

“We have made it clear to Nissan that any attempt to do this will be fought by the union and a loyal, world-class workforce.

“There needs to be a full consultation with Unite to ensure that any rationalisation or restructuring of the business is done in a way that protects jobs and the financial security of our members as well as the long-term future of the plant.

“The loss of the jobs of our Spanish colleagues is a regrettable reminder that automotive manufacturing is facing tremendous challenges.”

Sharon Hodgson, the Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said the news will come as a relief to her constituents.

But she added: “Efficiency savings are still due to be made, and I want to add my voice to calls by Unite that they should not come in the form of job cuts or changes to terms and conditions for workers.

“The closure of the plant in Barcelona should act as a warning to the UK Government that there is no room for complacency when it comes to supporting manufacturing in the UK, particularly as we emerge from the current crisis.”