The Japanese carmaker is mulling moving production of the Kadjar and Captur SUVs to Britain, allowing it to close its Barcelona factory. Renault owns just over 40 percent of Nissan’s shares, and the two companies operate a strategic alliance of their respective production facilities. Other vehicles manufactured at the site would be moved to Nissan’s factories in South Africa and Renault’s plant at Maubeuge in France, according to the Financial Times.
If such a move were to go ahead, it would secure thousands of jobs at the Japanese carmaker’s Sunderland site.
Moving production of Renault models to Britain’s biggest car plant would also send a strong signal over Nissan’s commitment to the UK as the giant carmaker prepares to cut global production by a fifth.
There had previously been fears of drastic cuts at the plant due to Brexit, and concerns were even growing that it might never fully reopen after the coronavirus crisis.
Renault is said to be planning to move production of pick-up trucks currently made in Barcelona to South Africa, and shift its electric van to France. Other models such as the Espace minivan will be scrapped.
Renault’s Kadjar and Captur models use the same production set-up as Nissan’s UK-made Qashqai and Juke vehicles.
The Sunderland plant, which employs 6,000 people and supports a further 27,000 UK supply chain jobs, has been operating under a cloud after Nissan warned post-Brexit tariffs could jeopardise its future.
A spokesman for Nissan said: “We do not comment on speculation.”
The Sunderland plant is the UK’s largest car factory employing around 6,000 people.
It is currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and is not due to reopen until June at the earliest.
Commentators have said the move would be taken as a sign of Nissan’s long-term commitment to the UK despite its anxiety over tariffs with Europe post-Brexit.
The plans were due to be announced by Nissan chief executive Makoto Uchida as part of a strategy overhaul of its European operations, the FT reported.
Nissan and Renault will reveal strategic updates on May 28.
Makoto Uchida, Nissan’s chief executive, is seeking to steady the ship after the Japanese carmaker was rocked by a boardroom scandal involving former boss Carlos Ghosn who was arrested over allegations of false accounting. Mr Ghosn subsequently fled to Lebanon.