New fears have been raised for UK car plant workers after reports that Nissan will cut 10,000 jobs globally – more than double the number previously announced – as it seeks to tackle tumbling profits.
The car maker’s plant in Sunderland, which employs nearly 7,000, has already been hit by the news a new model will be built in Japan and not in the UK as planned.
Job cuts, or even plant closure, would be a further hammer blow to Britain’s car industry. A string of car makers have already shed staff and moved production overseas in response to Brexit uncertainty, plummeting sales of diesel-engine vehicles and a slowdown in the key market of China among other problems.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that Nissan would slash 10,000 jobs as part of a turnaround plan. These include the 4,800 cuts announced in May.
An insider told Reuters that most of the cuts would be at factories outside Japan as they are currently underutilised.
The Sunderland plant fits that description but there has been no official indication from Nissan that UK jobs are at risk.
Nissan did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Sunderland plant is currently in its annual two-week summer shutdown.
The jobs announcement is expected to come when Nissan reports its latest quarterly earnings on Thursday. When the company last reported earnings in May, it revealed a 57 per cent fall in annual net profits to 319bn yen (£2.4bn) – the lowest since 2009-10.
Nissan produced around 450,000 cars last year in Sunderland, making it one of the UK’s largest vehicle manufacturers. But in March it U-turned on a plan to build its new X-Trail model at the site.
Former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn had pledged to build the model in Sunderland after assurances from the government about support for investment after Brexit. Mr Ghosn was arrested by Japanese police last year and charged with a number of offences over allegations of misconduct, which he denies.
Following a meeting with Mr Ghosn the UK government allocated more than £40m to build an advanced manufacturing park in Sunderland which supports suppliers for the car giant.
Britain’s car industry is facing a bleak outlook. Production numbers fell for a twelfth successive month in May, leaving output 15.5 per cent lower than a year earlier.
“Twelve consecutive months of decline for UK car manufacturing is a serious concern and underlines yet again the importance of securing a Brexit deal quickly,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the industry’s trade body, when the figures were announced last month.
He added: “The ongoing political instability and uncertainty over our future overseas trade relationships, most notably with Europe, is not helping and, while the industry’s fundamentals remain strong, a brighter future is only possible if we secure a deal that can help us regain our reputation as an attractive location for automotive investment.”
Jaguar Land Rover, Honda and Ford have also cut staff numbers in the UK over the past 18 months while Honda and Toyota have issued warnings about the negative impact of a hard Brexit on their presence in the UK.