Nissan bosses shrug off Brexit concerns with £2bn UK investment

Top executives at Nissan have played down the impact of Brexit on its operations here after backing Britain with a £2bn investment to produce electric vehicles in Sunderland.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, chief executive Makoto Uchida said that while leaving the European Union (EU) had been a challenge, the UK would remain Nissan’s primary European focus for “the foreseeable future.”

Uchida added he was baffled at how the British talk the country down. “I am quite surprised that people here in the UK are asking, ‘Why UK?’.”

“We have great people and great talent here,” he added.

Following the announcement of the investment, Alan Johnson, Nissan’s senior vice-president of manufacturing and supply chain, told the Sunday Times that while Brexit had made operations in Britain “more bureaucratic” he said the firm has “quite quickly adapted”, adding it is “just normal now.”

Johnson described the impact of post-Brexit red tape on UK prices as “negligible” arguing that volatile energy prices, for example, has had a “much more significant” impact on prices.

It marks a significant shift in sentiment from the Japanese carmaker, which has questioned its commitment to Britain in a post-Brexit world. In 2022, the company announced plans to close one of the plants at its vast Sunderland site, which was responsible for producing cylinder heads for Renault.

Nissan, which employs 6,000 people in Sunderland, has also warned in the past that production in the UK is under threat without tariff-free access to Europe. Looming January tariffs could see a 10 per cent charge added to certain electric vehicles traded with the bloc.

Nissan said it will use the £2bn investment to build three electric car models, including its best-selling Qashqai and Juke models.

Nissan’s new investment plan consists of a £1.12bn injection into its Sunderland works, while a further £1bn will be set aside for a third gigafactory. Reports suggest taxpayers will contribute an added £200m to the plant upgrade.