Still reeling from the consequences of its poorly thought-out exit from the European Union, Britain received another body-blow at the Paris Motor Show with Nissan-Renault chief Carlos Ghosn putting the future of the made-in-the-UK Qashqai Crossover/SUV on the line.
An all-new Qashqai is in the pipeline and the pragmatic Mr Ghosn told the media he “will not make such an important investment decision in the dark”.
At question is Nissan’s plant in Sunderland in the north of England which is actually the largest vehicle manufacturing plant in Britain, employing more than 7000 people and producing 500,000 vehicles per year – many of them exported to Europe.
Bigger picture: Britain is currently the third-largest vehicle manufacturer in Europe, and with tariff-free exports as part of the EU, around 80 percent of production is sent across the channel.
But with Britain tipped to trigger its exit from the EU early 2017, it will then take years to negotiate trade deals with individual European countries.
According to Mr Ghosn, this uncertainty doesn’t support the sort of long-term planning and investment which is at the heart of vehicle manufacturing.
If, with Britain out of the EU, individual countries impose tariffs on British products then Mr Ghosn says the UK should pay appropriate compensation so manufacturers like Nissan can maintain price-competitiveness.
His position was quickly supported by Jaguar Land Rover with the British luxury car-maker’s strategy chief Hanno Kirner saying: “Stiff trade barriers would be disastrous for the industry.”
And Mike Hawkes, CEO of the British Society Of Manufacturers And Traders said: “Even a small tariff would be detrimental because car manufacturers already work on such small margins.”
“If I need to make an investment in the next few months, I can’t wait until the end of the Brexit,” Mr Ghosn revealed. “If the British government cannot respond we will not go ahead.”
Increasingly, Britain’s exit from the EU is looking like Dennis Lillee’s aluminium cricket bat from the 1980s: it seemed like a good idea at the time, but…
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