Nissan considers moving U.K. SUV production overseas on Brexit

Siddharth Philip and Kae Inoue

Nissan Motor Co. will consider moving production of its SUVs outside the U.K. if the country leaves the European Union without a deal, people familiar with the matter said.

Manufacturing of the Qashqai SUV could be moved to Spain, while the compact Juke may move to another overseas plant, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are confidential. The departure would be a major blow to U.K. manufacturing as the company’s flagship factory in Sunderland is Britain’s largest.

Nissan Motor Co. will consider moving production of its SUVs, the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder is shown, outside the U.K. if the country leaves the European Union without a deal

In February, Nissan backed out of a plan to build the X-Trail sport utility vehicle in Sunderland, citing the unresolved status of EU-U.K. trade after Brexit. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will present a new plan for a deal to the European Union within days, but there are already signs it may fail with just weeks left before the delayed Oct. 31 deadline.

A showcase for automation and modern working practices, the Sunderland facility in northeast England helped propel Britain to record auto output and sales in 2016, before concerns about the Brexit vote and a government campaign against diesel models began to weigh on demand.

Nissan said in an email that while it doesn’t comment on speculation, plans for Qashqai production haven’t changed.

“Today we are among those companies with major investments in the U.K. who are still waiting for clarity on what the future trading relationship between the U.K. and the EU will look like,” the company said. “We urge U.K. and EU negotiators to work collaboratively towards an orderly balanced Brexit that will continue to encourage mutually beneficial trade.”

U.K. carmakers have been campaigning against a no-deal split since the 2016 referendum. Last week, Jaguar Land Rover said it would close its British factories for a week in November to guard against disruptions to supply chains from a possible no-deal Brexit. The announcement followed a warning from more than 20 European trade groups that such a breakup would have an “immediate and devastating impact, undermining competitiveness and causing irreversible and severe damage.”

BMW AG plans to halt production at its Mini plant in Oxford for two days on Oct. 31, and said earlier that it would reduce output by eliminating a work shift in the event of a no-deal split.

The Financial Times reported earlier Tuesday that Nissan will review production of the Qashqai at Sunderland if the U.K. exits the EU without a deal.