Nissan’s investment decision on post-Brexit UK had to be now, CEO says

A pedestrian passes before a vehicle from auto giant Nissan Motors at the company's showroom.
Toru Yamanaka | AFP | Getty Images

could not wait to make its investment decision on its Sunderland plant until the British government concluded Brexit negotiations with the EU, the carmaker's chief executive told CNBC.

"We had to make a decision on investment now," Carlos Ghosn, chairman and chief executive officer of Renault-Nissan Alliance told CNBC.

The Japanese carmaker surprised last week when it announced plans to build two new car models in the U.K., as it remains unclear how trade relations between the U.K. and the European would work once Britain leave the 28-member bloc. Nissan itself had raised concerns over future investments in the U.K. after the vote's outcome last June.

Speaking on the sidelines of an energy event in Paris, Ghosn told CNBC that there were alternative plans on the table but the British government gave enough "reassurance" that gave him enough confidence to approve the investment at the car plant, the biggest in Britain.

Carlos Ghosn
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Number 10 has been under pressure to disclose details of the negotiations between it and Nissan, which some media reports have dubbed as "sweetheart deal". However, the government said on Monday that it wouldn't make public the letter that it sent to the carmaker to convince Nissan to invest in the U.K.

"My problem is when I make a decision on investments for Nissan I make it knowing exactly what is the environment in which I am making these investments. And I have obtained enough clarification and reassurance from the British government to proceed with these investments," said.

Nissan's CEO did not clarify what sort of reassurances the British government gave, nor if there was a break-up close in the agreement.

"It's under the form of safeguarding the competitiveness of the plans of Sunderland," Ghosn said.

The project to build two new car models at Sunderland will secure 7,000 jobs.