Once again, Nissan has shown leadership in UK car manufacturing at exactly the moment it was most needed.
Thirty-two years ago it signalled a renaissance in British car manufacturing by building a mammoth plant in fresh car-making territory at Sunderland, just as British Leyland was beginning its terminal decline. This week, Nissan has underscored the UK’s continuing suitability as a car-making country by announcing not only that production of the next-generation Qashqai SUV will remain in Sunderland, but that it will be joined in due time by the larger X-Trail.
The decision will have deep implications. It will give UK negotiators something to fight with as they flesh out post-Brexit trade deals. It will help maintain the growth of the UK’s slowly expanding components supply industry, which government-industry bodies have worked so hard to revive in recent years.
It will help stiffen the sinews of other manufacturers with important decisions to make (are you listening, Vauxhall?) and it will help reassure concerned members of the public (including 7000 Sunderland plant employees) who have always seen Nissan UK’s fortunes as an important bellwether of UK industrial progress.
When Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn met prime minister Theresa May in Downing Street a fortnight ago to discuss matters of mutual interest, he departed “expressing confidence”. Stand by for the honorary knighthood.