By Nick Carey
LONDON (Reuters) -Nissan will pump 1.12 billion pounds ($1.4 billion) into building electric versions of two of its cars at its British plant, in a boost for the country’s auto industry and a prime minister desperate to attract foreign investment.
Friday’s announcement fires the starting gun on Rishi Sunak’s Global Investment Summit next week, when he will try to revive interest from overseas companies which have cooled on Britain since Brexit in 2016 and subsequent political turmoil.
Nissan said its plans for electric versions of the Qashqai and Juke, produced in Sunderland, northeast England, would require a total investment of up to 2 billion pounds, including a third battery plant in Britain and infrastructure projects that partners would help to finance.
The Japanese automaker did not comment on the value of any subsidies or guarantees being provided by Britain, but said discussions with the government were ongoing.
“It’s a huge vote of confidence in the UK,” Sunak said at the plant in Sunderland, where Nissan has made its electric Leaf model for years and will continue to do so, with batteries supplied by a small plant at the site.
Nissan Chief Executive Makoto Uchida, who will attend Sunak’s summit next week, told workers that the Japanese automaker had “found a winning formula of manufacturing excellence and great products” in Sunderland.
He said Nissan had sold more than 1 million EVs globally, nearly a third of which run on batteries made at the site.
In 2021, Nissan announced a $1.4 billion investment to build a second, 9 gigawatt-hour (GWh) battery plant in Sunderland with Chinese partner Envision AESC.
Nissan’s investment will help support 7,000 workers in Sunderland and 30,000 people in the supply chain, building on a presence in Britain which dates back to 1986.
The new EVs will be based on the recently unveiled Hyper Punk, Hyper Urban and Chill Out concepts, Uchida said.
A source at the company said all three will be based on the Renault Nissan alliance platform CMF-EV. The Leaf previously had a dedicated architecture.
Britain is a key hub for Nissan, whose 2021 battery investment was a show of confidence when other foreign investors were avoiding the UK after Brexit triggered years of uncertainty around its trading relationships.
But Sunak, who became prime minister a year ago, is having some success turning that around.
The Nissan deal comes just months after India’s Tata Motors said it would invest 4 billion pounds in a UK electric vehicle (EV) battery plant to supply its Jaguar Land Rover factories.
Nissan plans to offer only fully electric cars in Europe by 2030, adding it would announce the names of the new EV models and timings for production launches at a later date.
The automaker’s investment in EVs comes despite the five year delay to a ban on sales of new petrol cars which Sunak announced in September.
($1 = 0.8025 pounds)
(Reporting by Nick Carey and Sarah Young; Additional reporting by Paul Sandle and Gilles Guillaume; Editing by Sonali Paul, Mark Potter and Alexander Smith)