Nissan set to build two new electric models at its Sunderland plant

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Japanese carmaker Nissan will on Friday announce it is to build two new electric models at its UK plant as part of an investment expected to be worth more than £1bn, according to people briefed on the plans. 

The company’s decision to manufacture electric successors to its current Qashqai and Juke models at its Sunderland factory has been aided by financial support from the British government that could run into hundreds of millions of pounds, the people said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to visit the site on Friday for the announcement, which will be made by Nissan chief executive Makoto Uchida. Nissan and the UK government declined to comment.

Nissan already makes petrol Qashqai and Juke models at the Sunderland factory, and its decision to manufacture electric successors there should remove any lingering uncertainty over the future of the plant, which employs 6,000 workers. There are also thousands of jobs in the local supply chain.

Nissan warned repeatedly after the UK voted for Brexit that any tariffs affecting its cars exported to the EU could jeopardise its business model.

However, it subsequently welcomed the trade deal that the UK negotiated with the EU.

And in 2021 Nissan and its battery supplier AESC, owned by China’s Envision, announced a £1bn investment in the Sunderland site.

Nissan pledged to make a new electric model there, while AESC said it would build a large-scale battery plant at the site.

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Nissan makes its electric Leaf car in Sunderland, with batteries supplied by AESC.

It was unclear whether AESC would commit additional funding as part of the plans to build the electric Qashqai and Juke models, the people briefed on the situation said. 

Friday’s announcement will be the latest fillip to the UK car industry as it embarks on the transition from petrol and diesel cars to electric vehicles.

BMW in September unveiled a £600mn investment to manufacture electric Mini models at its Oxford factory, and JLR owner Tata in July announced plans for a £4bn gigafactory in the UK to supply batteries for its cars.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt name-checked Nissan and Toyota, which has a car factory in Derby and is considering further UK investments, in his Autumn Statement on Wednesday.

Hunt announced a further £2bn of state money to help secure investment in the car industry after 2025.

The announcement by Nissan of the two models fits with its ambition to sell only electric cars in Europe by the end of the decade.

Uchida said in September on a visit to the UK that the world “needs to move on” from combustion engines after the British government’s decision to delay the phaseout of the sale of petrol cars from 2030 to 2035. 

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