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Nissan, Toyota hangs on UK plants despite ‘hard Brexit’ plan

Toyota and Nissan say they will continue to build cars in the UK despite Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to leave the European Union’s single market, which could make exporting from British factories less lucrative.

May’s Brexit plan, outlined last week will not derail Nissan’s commitment to build new versions of its Qashqai and X-Trail SUVs at its factory in Sunderland, England, so said, Carlos Ghosn, the automakers chief executive.

Toyota plans to keep its car- and engine-building plants in the UK and may take steps to increase their competitiveness if leaving the European Union raises costs, Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada said.

“We can survive this,” Uchiyamada said in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “In every country in the world, we don’t intend to close or move factories when things like this happen and it will be the same in the UK.”

Toyota and Nissan, along with Japanese rival Honda, have led a revival in UK car manufacturing, relying on EU membership to export cars to other countries in the bloc without tariffs.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders lobby group has warned quitting the single market abruptly and reverting to tariffs under World Trade Organization rules threatens the industry’s viability.

Until recently, May’s Brexit plans were shrouded in uncertainty, with auto executives and other business leaders hoping she’d opt for a softer version of Brexit in which the UK maintained membership in the single market and the European customs union, which eases cross-border movement of parts and materials for manufacturers.

In October, Nissan secured unspecified assurances from May’s government and said it would make new investment at the Sunderland factory, the biggest auto plant in the UK. From now on, Nissan will assess the plant’s overall competitiveness, rather than focus on tariffs or other individual issues, Ghosn said.

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