Nissan to close its plants in Catalonia, leaving over 20,000 jobs at risk

Over 3,000 people work at the Japanese carmaker's factories, which will be leaving after 40 years of activity

Image of a sign made of T-Shirts outside Nissan's plant in Barcelona asking for the future of its workers, on May 6, 2020, in Barcelona (by Àlex Recolons)
Image of a sign made of T-Shirts outside Nissan's plant in Barcelona asking for the future of its workers, on May 6, 2020, in Barcelona (by Àlex Recolons) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 28, 2020 10:44 AM

Nissan has decided to close its plants in Catalonia after 40 years of activity, as announced by its CEO, Makoto Uchida, in a press conference in Japan on Thursday morning. 

The CEO admitted that they had "considered several measures" in order to keep the factories open. 

Yet, he confirmed they will close despite it being a "difficult decision" and said that he intends to begin layoff negotiations. 

According to Uchida, there is a need to "rationalize" the business, although the also informed that they will be maintaining their activity in Sunderland (United Kingdom). 

Low productivity

The head of Nissan in Europe, Gianluca de Ficchy, argued that competitiveness at the Catalonia plants is too low. According to him, the production in Barcelona is now at 20% of the total capacity, and it was expected to drop more in the near future. 

For him, the plant "needed big investments in order to be up to date," and the plans announced a year ago to make it competitive were frustrated by Mercedes withdrawing production of its 'pick-up' vehicle, which accounted for 57% of the total production. 

Soon after the announcement, workers began to protest outside the company's Barcelona and Montcada i Reixac plants, and the march at the Catalan capital's factory moved towards the city center, cutting the Ronda Litoral ring road and Gran Via. 

Unions believe that the automaker will finalize the closure of the plants this December. 

20,000 jobs at stake

Before the firm announced its strategic plan for the future, the Spanish government explained it had been informed by the Japanese carmaker of its plans to move out after months of uncertainty.

Over 3,000 people work at the Japanese carmaker's five plants in Catalonia and unions say that this decision will not only affect them but also another 20,000 jobs indirectly.

Staff, which have been on strike since May 4 to protest their uncertain future, gathered outside the Barcelona plant early Thursday morning. 

The Catalan and Spanish governments have joined forces to avoid the closure of the factory in Catalonia and both authorities have worked on an industrial plan to persuade the Japanese company to remain.

On Thursday morning, the Catalan president chaired a meeting with several ministers, while Spain intends to host another meeting with the Catalan authorities, Barcelona's local council, and the Zona Franca industrial estate consortium, which is where the main Nissan plant in the country is located. 

40 years of activity

Nisan came to Catalonia in 1980, where it has five centers: the main factory, in Barcelona's Zona Franca industrial estate, two more factories in Sant Andreu de la Barca and Montcada i Reixac, an auto part center in El Prat de Llobregat, and a distribution center at the Barcelona port. 

All five plants account for 1.3% of the Catalan GDP and 7% of the Catalan industrial sector.

3% hit to GDP

Nissan's closure will have an impact of between 2.6% and 3% of GDP, will affect 425 companies, and lead to between 20,000 and 30,000 job losses, according to PIMEC, who represent small and medium-sized enterprises.

The president of the business association, Josep González regrets the decision of the Japanese company to close the plant in Barcelona and has says that it will lead to "very worrying" unemployment figures.

PIMEC has called for a national automotive pact to help the sector, a plan taking into account factors such as wage costs, quality and productivity, with the aim of positioning Catalonia as an "attractive" territory compared to other countries.