Nissan invests in Sunderland plant despite Brexit warnings

09 March 2020

9 March 2020

Nissan has unveiled its new £52 million (€60 million) XL press line in its UK plant. The equipment comes as part of a £400 million (€458 million) investment in the facility ahead of production of the third-generation Qashqai.

The first specially commissioned panels were pressed last week (6 March) at an official opening ceremony. Leading the event, Nissan chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta said: ′When the first Nissan Qashqai rolled off the line in Sunderland in 2006 it created the crossover segment.'

′Designed, engineered and made in the UK, and more than three million vehicles later, it remains the benchmark, just as our team in the UK continues to set the standard for productivity and quality,' He commented.

As part of the ceremony, the team behind the press signed the first panel, which will become a fender for the new Juke. March 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the first Juke to roll out of the Sunderland plant and since October last year, it has been made there exclusively.

′Watching the first perfect panels coming off the press was a proud moment, and is a reflection of the tremendous skills we have here on Wearside,' added Steve Marsh, vice president of manufacturing, at the Sunderland plant.

6.1 million vehicle panels

Weighing more than 2,000 tonnes, the new press has taken 18 months to install. According to Nissan, the machinery is capable of stamping more than 6.1 million vehicle panels a year, with a maximum combined force of 5,400 tonnes.

The investment also includes a new recycling system which will segregate and process scrap, as well as upgrades to the existing blanking line which will supply flat blanks (the sheets of metal that are ready to be pressed) to the XL press.

The Qashqai preparation comes on top of the £100 million (€115 million) invested in the launch of the new Juke and is part of the planned £1 billion investment (€1.15 billion) in the Sunderland plant over five years.

The factory produces the Qashqai, Juke and Leaf models in Britain, where it employs more than 7,000 people. The site churned out almost 350,000 vehicles in 2019, down 30% from their 2016 production figure of 500,000.

Since the Brexit referendum, investment in the UK's automotive industry has fallen significantly. From over £2.5 billion (€2.9 billion) in 2015, just £90 million (€103 million) was invested in manufacturing, research and development in the first six months of last year.

Bucking the trend

Alongside Nissan, however, some manufacturers do appear to be trying to buck this trend. Hyundai and Kia recently announced that they plan to pump money into Arrival, a UK-based electric start-up. This boost of over £87 million (€100 million) almost matched the total investment from January to June 2019.

However, with the potential for a trade deal between the EU and UK still up in the air, and the coronavirus (Covid-19) continuing to impact global supply chains, manufacturers are likely to continue exercising caution when investing.