Among all the doom and gloom here a good news story, says Dan Bevis
In times of political turmoil, it’s natural to grab onto the nearest chunk of good news, no matter how tenuous, and anchor our emotions in something that isn’t completely horrible. And since ‘completely horrible’ has very much become the theme on both sides of the Atlantic of late, we’re crying out for a good news story… which, thankfully, Nissan are able to provide.
This is news we need. The UK-based automotive industry has suffered a few significant knock-backs in recent times (far be it from us to blame this squarely on Brexit, but… you can finish that sentence however you see fit); Honda have announced the closure of the Swindon plant by 2021, with 3,500 jobs to be lost, which is a crushing blow for countless families.
This plant has been in operation since 1989, Honda’s only manufacturing facility in Europe, and produces 160,000 Civics a year; they claim this isn’t due to Brexit but instead to shifting demand patterns – you may draw your own conclusions. Ford have announced that the Bridgend engine plant, operational since 1977 and today employing over 1,700, could also close.
A consultation process has begun with unions, although this sounds like more of a box-tick than a consultation as 400 employees have already signed a voluntary separation agreement and will leave by the end of the this year. Up in Sunderland, however, Nissan have a good news story for us. And it’s not just good in relative terms compared with everything else being terrible, but genuinely great news: in June of this year, the 10,000,000th British-built Nissan rolled off the production line. Over a third of this figure is accounted for by Qashqais, which aren’t very exciting vehicles but they stuff the coffers for the development of things like GT-Rs and, of course, this is all money that’s swirling around the UK economy. 2.3m Micras and 1.1m Jukes add to the figures, and the history of the manufacturing facility continues to be a success story: starting out with 470 employees back in the 1980s, today it employs over 7,000 and produces a complete car every two minutes. So things may be looking bleak for automotive manufacturing in the UK as a whole, but those sunlit uplands we keep hearing about do appear to be peeping through the gloom up in the North East.