Nissan, in collaboration with its partners, has unveiled a £2 billion initiative to produce three electric car models at its Sunderland factory in the UK. The Japanese automaker intends to manufacture electric Qashqai and Juke models alongside the next-generation electric Leaf, which is already produced at the facility. This ambitious project has the potential to secure the employment of approximately 6,000 workers directly and create additional job opportunities across the UK.
Expanding Electric Vehicle Production: Nissan’s strategic plan involves the expansion of electric vehicle production in Sunderland. In addition to the existing battery factory adjacent to the car plant, the project calls for the establishment of a significant new battery plant, often referred to as a “gigafactory.” Nissan is committed to investing £1.12 billion in preparing its UK facilities and supply chain for the production of these new electric models. Simultaneously, the workforce will undergo specialized training to adapt to the changing landscape of electric vehicle manufacturing.
Gigafactory Expansion: Lei Zhang, Chairman of AESC, the company’s battery subsidiary, has disclosed that a feasibility study is underway to explore the expansion of gigafactory operations in Sunderland. Government support for this endeavor is expected, although the specific form of support remains uncertain. It is worth noting that Nissan is set to receive £15 million in funding for its research center in Bedfordshire.
Union Support and Industry Challenges: The Unite union has voiced its support for this plan, emphasizing that it secures the long-term future of the Sunderland site and the well-paying jobs it sustains. However, the union has also called for increased government support for the broader automotive industry. Earlier this year, Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta expressed concerns about the UK’s competitiveness in car manufacturing due to higher manufacturing costs driven by energy bills and inflation.
Competitiveness and Government Support: Alan Johnson, Nissan’s Senior Vice President of Manufacturing and Supply Chain, believes that the UK can remain competitive in car production but underscores the importance of the overall environment. Factors such as energy costs, infrastructure, local and national government support must align for the industry’s continued success. Discussions are ongoing with the government regarding support, but specific details have not been disclosed.
The UK government has previously supported Nissan through the Automotive Transformation Fund, which recently received a £2 billion top-up in the Autumn Statement. While Nissan’s project is expected to receive government funding of approximately £100 million, discussions continue about the exact amount.
Nissan’s announcement coincides with the government’s confirmation of an “investment zone” for North East England, set to generate over 4,000 jobs in the region over the next five years.