Nissan and Toyota have both expressed their preference for Britain remaining in the UK – although neither plans to pro-actively support any political campaign ahead of the EU referendum on 23 June.
They are the first major overseas car manufacturers based in the UK to formally comment on Brexit since the date of the referendum was announced.
“This is ultimately a matter for the British people to decide,” said Nissan chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn in a statement.
“We respect that the UK’s future relationship with the European Union is a matter for the British people to decide, and it is not our intention to participate in the campaign,” said Toyota Motor Europe president and CEO John van Zyl.
But both firms are quite clear in the facts they present – and both agree that it makes the most sense for jobs, trade and costs for the UK to remain within Europe.
“For us, a position of stability is more positive than a collection of unknowns,” said Ghosn; “We are concerned that leaving would create additional business challenges,” added van Zyl.
And while current UK-based operations for Nissan and Toyota are not under threat, future investments in the UK could be at risk should Britons vote for Brexit. “While we remain committed to our existing investment decision,” said Ghosn, “we will not speculate on the outcome nor what would happen in either scenario.
“We obviously want the Nissan UK plant and engineering centre to remain as competitive as possible when compared with other global entities,” he added. “Each future investment opportunity will be taken on a case by case basis, just as it is now.
Nissan directly employs 8,000 people at its sites in London, Cranfield and Sunderland, plus a further 32,000 people indirectly. Toyota’s manufacturing site at Burnaston employs 3,800.
Toyota admits key reasons for choosing Britain over the rest of Europe when it chose Derby the plant in 1992 was “the open and free access to the European market, (and) the free access of a skilled workforce”. Today, Burnaston is wholly integrated into Toyota’s European operations.
8 in 10 Nissans are exported and 9 in 10 Toyota are exported out of the UK – with Europe being the biggest market for both brand’s vehicles.