By Naomi Tajitsu | YOKOHAMA, JAPAN
Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) will make a decision next month on whether to produce the next Qashqai SUV model at its Sunderland plant in Britain following the country’s decision to leave the European Union, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said on Friday.
Ghosn last week met with British Prime Minister Theresa May after warning the country’s decision to exit the European Union could halt investment at the plant in northern England.
The factory, which builds the popular Qashqai SUV and many other models exported throughout Europe, is Britain’s largest car plant, producing 475,000 vehicles last year, of which 80 percent were exported.
“We’re not asking for any advantage (from the British government), but we don’t want to lose any competitiveness no matter what the discussions,” Ghosn told reporters at Nissan’s company headquarters in Yokohama.
Ghosn said he had received reassurance that the British government would be “extremely cautious” in “preserving the competitiveness” of the Sunderland plant.
“As long as I have this guarantee … I can look at the future of Sunderland with more ease,” he said.
Production of the next Qashqai model is expected to begin around 2018 or 2019. The time it takes to bring a new car into production means Nissan needs to decide on the location of its next-generation model soon.
Businesses have been concerned that Britain is headed towards a “hard Brexit”, which would leave it outside the single market and facing tariffs of up to 10 percent on car exports.
Ghosn also said he expected the bulk of Nissan’s initial cost savings from its partnership with Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T) to come from purchasing and engineering, as Nissan benefits from Mitsubishi’s localized supplier network in Asia and uses the smaller automaker’s technology for plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Nissan on Thursday completed a deal to take a controlling stake in Mitsubishi, retaining the embattled automaker’s chief executive in a bid to help it recover from a mileage cheating scandal.
(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Michael Perry and Stephen Coates)