Posts Tagged ‘mobility’

Spain’s government lashes out at Nissan over Barcelona factory closure

Nissan said Thursday it would close its plant at Barcelona’s Zona Franca, threatening about 3,000 jobs and triggering a scramble among politicians to figure out a contingency plan.

Nissan’s Chief Executive Makoto Uchida confirmed the closure during a video press conference on Thursday in which he announced sweeping restructuring. That’s a major blow for Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who had insisted earlier this year that the factory’s future was “guaranteed.”

“We considered various measures in Barcelona and although it was a very difficult decision we intend to close the plant,” said Uchida.

On Wednesday, Nissan agreed a new cooperation program with Renault that will see the French carmaker take the lead in Europe as the whole auto industry grapples with expensive shifts in electromobility and autonomous driving systems, as well as the impact of the pandemic.

The closure of the Barcelona factory, which dates back to 1920 but has only been owned by Nissan since 1980, is hardly a surprise. The site had been operating far below its maximum capacity since 2012 and concerns over its viability increased months ago when Nissan cut 600 jobs to reduce costs.

However, Nissan said it will keep open its Sunderland factory in the U.K., despite fears that Brexit could lead to its closure. Its peer Honda last year announced plans to close its Swindon plant in the U.K. by 2022, costing 3,500 jobs.

Auto failure

In its announcement on Thursday, Nissan said it will now redirect its resources toward Japan, China and the United States, giving ground to Renault in Continental Europe.

The production of vans will be shifted from Barcelona to Renault’s French factories.

The decision is a big blow to manufacturing and employment in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia, where carmaking has been a crucial sector for decades. About 3,000 direct jobs and between 25,000 and 30,000 indirect jobs depend on Barcelona’s Zona Franca factory.

The decision also represents a failure for Sánchez after months of intense negotiations to persuade Nissan to keep the factory open.

“We regret this decision by Nissan … despite the enormous efforts by the government to keep the business going,” Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha González said.

Spain insists that saving the Barcelona site is still possible if Nissan were to apply a viability plan developed jointly with the Spanish Ministry of Industry and the Catalan regional government. Spain and Catalonia had offered an injection of up to €100 million — about a third of what Nissan needed to invest to build a new electric vehicle at the Barcelona factory that would ensure its long-term viability.

Spain is determined not to make Nissan’s exit easy. The government argues that closing the factory would cost the company more than €1 billion in compensation to workers and suppliers, as well as the repayment of €25 million in taxpayer money handed to Nissan over the last 12 years. Madrid says that it would be cheaper for Nissan to invest and save the site.

The government also warned that leaving Barcelona and Spain equals “abandoning the European Union, with the consequent reputational damage in a market of more than 500 million people.”

Economic Affairs Minister Nadia Calviño said Thursday the government wants to discuss “an alternative solution” for the Zona Franca site with Nissan and has proposed the creation of a working group.

Unions plan street protests after weeks of being banned from doing so because of Barcelona’s lockdown restrictions. A strike that began on May 4 is set to continue.

“Nissan’s workers will not rest until they persuade the multinational to keep industrial operations in Spain,” said the CCOO union.

Nissan’s decision does not directly affect the future of the company’s other sites in northern Spain, including Ávila, where it produces spare parts, and Cantabria, where it manufactures electric vans.

Aitor Hernández-Morales contributed reporting.

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UK’s coronavirus quarantine in force from June 8

LONDON — People arriving in the U.K. from overseas will need to self-quarantine for 14 days from June 8, Home Secretary Priti Patel said Friday.

The new measures will apply to all residents and foreign nationals, with exemptions in place for truckers and freight workers, medical professionals working on the coronavirus response, and seasonal agricultural workers, who will be permitted to self-isolate on the property where they are working.

Those moving within the U.K.’s Common Travel Area with Ireland will also be exempt.

Those who breach their quarantine in England will face £1,000 fines or potential prosecution. While the new rules apply to the whole of the U.K., Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be responsible for their own enforcement.

All arriving passengers will have to fill in a form, before they arrive in the U.K., providing contact details and onward travel plans, so that they can be contacted if they, or someone they may have been in contact with, gets the virus.

The U.K.’s Border Force will be empowered to refuse entry to non-resident foreign nationals who refuse to comply. Failure to complete the “contact locator form” will be punished by a £100 fine, and public health authorities will carry out random checks in England to ensure compliance with the quarantine measures.

Anyone who cannot self-isolate at home, in a hotel, or with friends or family, will be required to stay in facilities organized by the government. Travelers are recommended to travel to their place of quarantine in personal transport, such as a car, where possible.

The U.K. measures comes as many EU countries are rethinking their quarantine requirements. Germany announced plans to loosen quarantine rules earlier this month and Italy is set to follow. France however introduced a voluntary two-week quarantine this week.

So-called “air bridges” — agreed between the U.K. and countries with a low rates of coronavirus infection where citizens are allowed to enter without quarantine — are still being considered by the government, but no such arrangements are yet in place. The overall policy, including the list of exemptions, will be reviewed every three weeks from the date the measures come into force.

“We are introducing these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave,” Patel said.  “I fully expect the majority of people will do the right thing and abide by these measures. But we will take enforcement action against the minority of people who endanger the safety of others.”

The U.K.’s plan for a quarantine regime was first announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on May 10. Explaining the decision to introduce the measures now — as the U.K. emerges from the peak of its coronavirus epidemic — John Aston, Home Office chief scientific adviser said: “The scientific advice so far has been clear: while there has been significant community transmission of the virus within the U.K. the impact of putting in place additional border restrictions would have been negligible to the spread of the virus.

“However, the spread of the virus within the U.K. is now lessening. We have been successful in getting the reproduction number R — the average number of new people infected by one infected person — below 1. As the number of infections within the U.K. drops, we must now manage the risk of transmissions being reintroduced from elsewhere.”

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