Earlier this week we covered the announcement that Nissan is to begin production of the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle at its Sunderland plant. This is part of an operation which began four years ago to bring electric vehicles to the UK, with the investment of £420 million in this particular venture. Despite the fact that many have been playing down the UK motoring industry, the fact is that Nissan continues to invest hundreds of millions of pounds, but why choose the UK?
Motor production in the UK
Traditional motor production the UK has been in decline for many years now and indeed if you set aside the likes of hybrid and electric vehicles the UK is fairly low down the list of car production countries, if indeed not non-existent. However, Nissan continues to see the UK as a viable option looking towards Europe but on the outside of the euro collapse. This approach has held the company in good stead going forward and indeed the UK government has been very forthcoming with a number of financial incentives.
In reality, a number of UK governments have been very proactive with regards to Nissan and other foreign automobile companies. Historically we have seen a number of failed attempts to rescue various companies along the way although Nissan is certainly one of the most successful stories of late.
Could electric vehicles be a major part of the UK economy?
The UK government is adamant that electric vehicles are the future, has announced a number of incentives for consumers and also various tax breaks for companies in the industry. Even though the jury is still out on a worldwide basis, the fact is that governments around the world have invested hundreds of millions of pounds over the years leading to a crescendo of public funding over the last five years or so.
Quote from the ElectricForum.com : "As the Nissan Leaf phenomenon continues to grow around the world this thread is the place to discuss your experiences having received your own Nissan Leaf. Was it exactly what you expected? Are you happy with the vehicle? Have you had any running problems?"
If, as many believe, the electric vehicle industry and its various future hybrids are here to stay, then the UK has placed a very firm marker for the future. If Nissan is successful at its award-winning Sunderland plant there would be no reason, both commercially and financially, to move production anywhere else. The company is adamant that the Sunderland plant is here to stay, electric vehicles are a major part of the industry going forward and Nissan is prepared to invest now while others sit on the sidelines.
If anything, Nissan is perhaps the perfect example of governments, unions, workers and companies working together towards one long-term goal. This early stage leg of the electric car industry in the UK has taken four years to build and an investment of £420 million, a mixture of commercial and public funds. There is still a long way to go, electric vehicle technology is still relatively young but if progress continues at the current pace then there is every chance that the UK could be in line for more similar deals.
Many people have mocked and ridiculed the UK automobile industry over the years, often with justification, but the Nissan story in Sunderland has been one of the major success stories of the last decade. Indeed this £420 million investment into the company's electric vehicle operation is already beginning to pay dividends both in terms of financial, commercial and employment benefits. If the UK is able to get a strong foothold in the industry at this relatively early stage then potentially there is a lot more to come in the medium to longer term.