Nissan pulls its premium Infiniti brand from Europe
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Infiniti cars will no longer be sold in Western Europe from 2020 after Nissan bosses decided to pull the premium brand from the market.
A statement released on Tuesday confirmed the luxury car maker will terminate UK production of vehicles at the Sunderland plant, putting around 250 jobs at risk.
It's a second blow for the factory in as many months after the Japanese company confirmed in early February that it had cancelled plans cancelled plans to build the next-generation Nissan X-Trail SUV at the British facility.
Bosses said the decision was made after years of poor sales volumes since the brand was launched in 2008. Just 750 Infiniti models were bought by Britons last year.
Two Infinitis are built in the UK - the Q30 and QX30 hatchbacks - alongside assembly lines for the Nissan Juke and Qashqai SUVs and Leaf electric car.
Production of these cars will end in July as part of plans to wind-down the brand in Europe by the end of the year.
The decision is part of a wider global restructuring plan for Infiniti, according to bosses, who have been reluctant to boost R&D investments for the cars to meet stricter EU legislation around CO2 emissions when so few models are bought in Europe.
ust 60,000 Infinitis have been bought in the last 11 years. Around 10,000 of these were purchased in the UK over the last decade, figures show.
Focus will now shift from the European market to North America and China, while smaller operations will continue in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, the company announced.
It intends to have a fully electrified range of vehicles in these markets by 2021.
Around 250 employees at the Sunderland car factory are dedicated to Infiniti production.
In a statement, the company said it was 'working to find alternative opportunities for any employees who would be affected, consulting with employee representatives where necessary and identifying opportunities for transition and training support where appropriate'.
It added: 'As a result of this restructuring plan, production of the Q30 and QX30 is to cease by mid-2019 at the manufacturing location in Sunderland, UK.
'Plant management will discuss any impact on the plant with employees and their representatives.'
Infiniti UK confirmed it will honour any outstanding vehicles warranties, while customers with a vehicle on order will be contacted in due course.
Existing customers are being advised to head online and register details on the Infiniti website where they will be informed about the company's restructure and service and maintenance solutions going further.
Sky News reported last week that shifts at the Sunderland plant could be reduced from three to two a day and potential result in up to 400 job losses.
It is unknown if the report of reduced operating hours is linked to the Infiniti decision.
In a statement, Unite national officer Steve Bush said the decision, while driven by poor sales, was 'obviously sad news'.
'Unite is confident however that workers on the Infiniti Q30 production line who want to stay with Nissan can be redeployed within the Sunderland plant onto other models,' he said.
'In the coming weeks Unite will be working closely with Nissan to protect jobs and ensure that redeployment is carried out in an open and transparent way.
'We will also be seeking assurances on future employment levels and the production of other models at Sunderland.'
A Government spokesperson told This is Money: 'As Infiniti has said, this is a global commercial decision to withdraw from Western Europe to focus on Infiniti’s growth market in North America and China.
'Regardless, this is a disappointing decision for the up to 250 dedicated workers at Sunderland who could be affected – but the company’s commitment to find alternative opportunities for those employees is welcome.
'Nissan has reiterated its commitment to the UK and its workforce by continuing to manufacture in Sunderland the current Qashqai, Leaf and Juke models, as well as the new Qashqai model.'