Workers at Britain's biggest vehicle plant received more bad news yesterday when Nissan's luxury Infiniti division said that it would halt production in Sunderland within months. That reversed a decision announced two years ago after Prime Minister Theresa May's government offered some 60 million pounds in incentives.
The manufacturer said the move was part of its plans to withdraw from the premium auto market in western Europe, where competition from Jaguar Land Rover, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz was too complicated to keep up with.
"Western Europe remains the most challenging and competitive region for premium cars", Infiniti's chief spokesman, Trevor Hale, told Reuters.
The logo of Infiniti, Nissan Motor's premium brand, is seen at its Global Design Center in Atsugi, Japan, April 18, 2018.
The company says it will "focus the brand on its largest growth markets, specifically North America and China", but today's announcement is claimed to have "no impact" on the brand's presence in eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Sunderland produced about 12,000 of the two diesel models past year, out of almost 450,000 cars.
Infiniti launched in Europe and the United Kingdom in 2008, but it has never taken off here.
"In the coming weeks Unite will be working closely with Nissan to protect jobs and ensure that redeployment is carried out in an open and transparent way".
A spokesman said that the targets could be met by Infiniti, like any other auto maker, with investment in electrified technology, but there was no viable way of the company to do so. Infiniti's best-ever year in Europe was in 2015 when it sold almost 14,000 vehicles. There are 55 Infiniti retail stores in western Europe.
"This is all part of Infiniti's vision to become a top challenger brand in the premium segment", it said. Infiniti will withdraw from Europe in early 2020.