Accounts vary as to whether the Japanese carmaker cites Brexit as the reason for its decision.

Ah, Brexit: the gift that keeps on giving. Or perhaps taking away. For, as fears of a no-deal outcome loom ever closer, Nikkei Asia has learned that Nissan has already made the decision to ship its newest BEV to European buyers from Japan, instead of making use of its Sunderland plant.

According to Nikkei’s initial report, the company’s decision comes as a direct result of Brexit fears, but Nissan have since disagreed, saying that it was always the plan to produce the Ariya in Japan’s Tochigi plant: 

You take many factors into account when deciding where it is most reasonable to produce a vehicle and these decisions are made years in advance.

Nissan spokeswoman Azusa Momose

The Ariya, coming in 2021, is the first globally available BEV from Nissan since the Leaf was launched in 2010. Expected to cost around £40,000, it’s the company’s first all-electric SUV, with a top range of 310 miles, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful Qashqai and Juke. 

Thanks to an economic partnership agreement, Japan currently has a 7.5% import tariff for automobiles coming to the EU. But a no-deal Brexit would mean that British exports face a steeper 10% tariff. 

The EU is the Sunderland plant’s biggest customer, with over 70% of its cars currently being exported there. Just last week, a Nissan source told the BBC that no-deal would threaten Nissan Europe’s entire business model, and implicitly the continued existence of the Sunderland factory: “There’s no Plan B.” 

The Brexit transition period ends on the 31st of December, and currently, no free trade agreement has been signed. Sunderland, where Nissan employs about 7000 people, voted Leave in 2016 by a margin of 61%.