Nissan boss warns UK over possible EU exit
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.
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.
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.