Nissan boss warns UK over possible EU exit

 

Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn warned the carmaker would have "to reconsider its strategy" if the UK exited the EU

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Nissan will reconsider its investment in the UK if Britain leaves the European Union, chief executive Carlos Ghosn has told the BBC.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a public vote on EU membership in 2017 if the Conservatives win the next general election in 2015.

But Mr Ghosn also added that he considered the exit scenario to be unlikely.

Nissan's new model will be built in Sunderland, where it employs 6,500.

Analysis

Carlos Ghosn may be the most important global industrialist yet to have weighed into the row around the UK's membership of the EU.

In a brief interview with the global boss of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, he was upbeat about the new Qashqai and the fact that it would secure jobs in Sunderland.

He's also more positive than most about the prospects for the European auto market and for electric vehicles. But it's his comments on the UK's membership of the EU that are making the headlines.

The good news is that almost three decades after starting production in Sunderland, the plant remains a cornerstone of Nissan's operations. It was built to serve the European market. But Mr Ghosn emphasised that it is a European plant, based in the UK.

Then came the bombshell - if the UK were to leave the EU, the Nissan would have to "reconsider our strategy and investments for the future".

Mr Ghosn's empire stretches around the globe. He understands trading blocks, the merits of free trade, the consequences of trade barriers and tariffs. So his comments are pragmatic.

Would the Sunderland plant close if the UK were to leave the EU? No. But in years to come, would it remain the focus of its European operations, continually winning new models and investment? That is now far from clear.

@JohnMoylanBBC

When asked how Nissan would react if the UK were to leave the EU, Mr Ghosn said: "If anything has to change, we [would] need to reconsider our strategy and our investments for the future."

Nissan 'blessed'

Praising the Sunderland plant, Mr Ghosn told the BBC it was one of the most productive in Europe and said Nissan was "blessed" to own it.

With sales of more than 240,000 last year, the Qashqai, to be built in Sunderland, is Nissan's best-selling car in Europe.

The car accounts for more than half the output of the Sunderland plant and Mr Ghosn says the new model "ensures" a lot of jobs in the city.

This is not the first time that Mr Ghosn has linked Nissan's UK investment to the country's role within the EU.

In October 2002, he told the BBC News website that the Sunderland plant's future would depend on whether the UK adopted the euro.

However, the UK has continued to use the pound and Nissan is still making cars in Sunderland.

European market

Mr Ghosn, who is also chief executive of Nissan's sister company Renault, says that after five years of decline the European car market is arriving at "the end of the tunnel".

He says that next year, the European market should be stable with possibly a little growth.

Action by the European Central Bank, including Thursday's cut in interest rates, could help that recovery according to Mr Ghosn.

 

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  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 1116.

    Mr Ghosn is being totally logical. The same arguments apply to Scotland leaving the UK and the UK leaving the EU. Both would be a serious error. Large trading and free labour movement areas are critical to compete with the US, China, Russia & Japan.

  • rate this
    +37

    Comment number 260.

    Nissan and all other companies will go where they get the biggest profit. Loyalty to a workforce or country is irrelevant.
    Like it or not that's capitalism.

  • rate this
    +152

    Comment number 225.

    I think he's just stating the blinding obvious. If we left the EU they would have to factor this into investment plans. To assume they wouldn't would be foolish.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 220.

    I'm for a vote on EU, but to say that leaving EU benefits the UK is crazy. Many reasons for EU exit, but definitely not for the money.
    Globalisation needs more countries to form trade/political alliances, so that big corps can benefit from such agreements. These are where jobs come from, so unless we want to do cheap labour manufacturing again, we stay with EU.

  • rate this
    +51

    Comment number 92.

    It would be interesting to gain a wider opinion from international, non-EU businesses on how their investment would change if we left the EU.

 

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