"Closing the Barcelona plants is a very difficult decision but that is what we intend to do." This was officially confirmed by the CEO of Nissan Catalonia, Makoto Uchida, who also explained that it will not be until December this year that the closure will take place. The news, which became known in the early hours of this Thursday morning after the Japanese management informed the Spanish government of their decision, is part of a plan to restructure the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance with a clear goal of cutting costs.
During the presentation of results for the 2019 financial year, held this morning via internet, the car manufacturer's management said little about the decision to leave Catalonia, except that it had been "very difficult" to take. "The proposal to close the Barcelona plant is the result of an extensive study to mitigate excess production capacity and improve overall competitiveness. This is not a decision we are taking lightly, but we do it to ensure the strongest possible future for the brand ".
However, this is not a justification that pleases the workers or the Catalan and Spanish authorities, who assert that they "will not make it easy" for the company to close down. “We now have six months to try and make them change their plans,” said Works Committee chairman Juan Carlos Vicente. "This is a long process, we have to pressure both the politicians and the company so that they understand that Nissan must stay, because this is about 20,000 families, and the industrial fabric of Catalonia and Spain are at stake," he told the media.
The bad feeling is palpable and workers protested outside the Catalan plants today, cutting roads and burning tires. In fact, the loss of jobs due to the closure is estimated at more than 15,000: 3,000 directly and 13,000 indirect jobs.
Nissan to reduce production by 20%
As for the company's own plans, Nissan has detailed its strategy up to 2023, with details that had already been made public pointing to the intention to close in Barcelona. Under the plan, the company plans to reduce its production capacity worldwide by 20%, to about 5.4 million units, and cut its costs by 15% in the period, as the firm has said.
Nissan explained that to achieve these goals it would close its plant in Indonesia and concentrate its production for the entire South-East Asian region in Thailand. All this to reduce its production capacity but keep the facilities it maintains producing at 80% of their capacity and thus being "more profitable".
CEO Makoto Uchida stressed the need to "react to adapt to the current market" affected by the global coronavirus pandemic, noting that Nissan will save about 300 billion yen (about 2,530 million euros) with these actions.
A farewell to Europe amid falling global sales
During the announcement of the proposal, Uchida insisted that "Nissan is taking steps to ensure a solid future for the company, in Europe and around the world." The closure of the Catalan plants will leave Nissan with its only remaining European production centre being that of the United Kingdom - and therefore outside the EU. But the company gave assurances today that "Europe remains an important region for Nissan ", and that is why" we are proposing steps to improve our position and our profitability in this highly competitive market," the CEO pointed out.
Global sales of Nissan Motor fell 41.6% in April compared to the same month in 2019 and in the first four months of this year accumulated a reduction of 31.1%, according to the figures provided this Thursday by the company.