The uncertainty about Great Britain’s plans for leaving the European Union appear to have another automaker contemplating shutting down and leaving.
Nissan, which builds its Qashqai small SUV in northern England, will reconsider its decision to build the little ute in Sunderland if Britain leaves the EU without some sort of deal, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has threatened to do. The Financial Times reported the possibility Tuesday.
The approval of Brexit has already cost the nation a substantive amount of its automotive business as Honda, Toyota and others have already announced plans to shutter plants due to the move and the uncertainty it brings business.
In fact, Nissan’s already cut one product, the X-Trail SUV, from the Sunderland plant due to Brexit, and company representatives aren’t offering bouquets of assurance about the Qashqai, which is known as the Kicks in the U.S.
“While we don’t comment on speculative scenarios, our plans for Qashqai production in Sunderland have not changed,” a company spokesman said.
Keeping the Qashqai in Britain was contingent upon an orderly, planned departure from the EU. The departure of other automakers has been a bitter pill to swallow, but if Nissan were to shutter the Sunderland plant, it would be especially painful as it is seen by many as epicenter of the rebirth of the British auto industry in the 1980s.
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher convinced Nissan to set up shop in the north in 1986. It was after that that other automakers began setting up shop across Great Britain. Now, despite official governmental assurances Brexit won’t hurt the plant’s competitiveness, Nissan is contemplating a move.
The issue with a no-plan Brexit is that components that sent into Great Britain, especially those on a just-in-time basis, will likely be delayed at the border due to inspections — searches that weren’t necessary under EU rules.
Britain’s big carmakers, all foreign owned, had urged Britons to vote to stay in the European Union in the 2016 referendum and have warned ever since that they will struggle to operate if the normal European trade arteries are disrupted.
Government officials have delayed two deadlines already for leaving the EU, Johnson has vowed that on Oct. 31, deal or no deal, the country is out, regardless of the consequences. His continuing rhetoric on the move has auto executives on high alert.
Nissan spokesman reminded that lack of inspections and ease of parts transportation to the Sunderland plant helped make it the biggest factory in the history of the British car industry, exporting more than half of its production to the EU.
“Today we are among those companies with major investments in the UK who are still waiting for clarity on what the future trading relationship between the UK and EU will look like,” he said.