Nissan, unions agree to delay Barcelona plant closing

Automotive Industry

Source: Automotive News Europe, 2020-08-06

After 30 hours of negotiations, Nissan Motor and workers at its three Barcelona plants agreed to postpone the closing of the factories by one year, until December 2021, the company and unions said.

The Japanese automaker guaranteed in a statement on Wednesday 5 August evening that there would be no mass layoffs until that date, and in exchange production at the plants will resume in late August.

Workers have been on strike since early May, a few weeks before Nissan announced the decision to leave Barcelona as part of a global turnaround plan.

Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida announced the plant's closure at the end of May as part of the automaker's recovery strategy. The plan includes a reduction of global production capacity by about a fifth to help cut 300bn yen ($2.8bn) from fixed costs.

The UGT union leader at Nissan in Barcelona, Javier Hernandez, said the plants should gradually resume output starting 24 August. 

The factories, which employ about 3,000 people -- and indirectly an additional 20,000 -- were originally due to close by the end of this year, but Nissan said recently that it was open to postponing that to give authorities more time to find another company interested in the facilities.

There has been no new information on potential companies interested in the plants once Nissan leaves, Hernandez said.

Petrochemicals giant Ineos has expressed an interest in taking over the plant to build the Grenadier SUV, its rival to the Land Rover Defender. The Nissan factory is set up for assembly of ladder-on-frame off-road vehicles, although Ineos has said buying Daimler's Smart factory in Hambach, France, is its favored option.

Nissan also announced a voluntary redundancy and pre-retirement plan for workers in Barcelona.

"We think this is the best solution for all parties,” said Nissan’s chief negotiator, Frank Torres, “as it buys more time to seek alternative re-industrialization projects, and if those fail to materialize, offers exit conditions well above the maximum legally established limits."

Nissan has said the cost of closing the plant, which makes the Nissan Navara pickup and Nissan vans, could be as much as €1.7bn.

Nissan plans to relocate production of the Navara to South Africa, while a replacement for the e-NV200 van would be built at alliance partner Renault's plant in Maubeuge, France, reports have said.

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