MUNICH -- Nissan’s manufacturing operations in the UK have saved a “significant sum” because of the depressed price of steel, the company’s head of purchasing in Europe told the Automotive News Europe Congress in Munich on Wednesday.
Judith Richardson said Nissan was a “significant user” of steel because of high demand for the raw material from the automaker's biggest European factory, which is in Sunderland, northeast England. She declined to quantify how much the Nissan has saved and added that steel prices are increasing, but she said the price trends were being partly obscured by foreign exchange volatility and the uncertainty around Britain’s referendum later this month on whether to leave the European Union, the so-called Brexit.
“Brexit is not helping,” she told the congress.
The depressed price of steel has helped carmakers in the UK but it also has forced the sale of one of the country's biggest local suppliers, Tata Steel.
Nissan purchases about 45 percent of its steel from the supplier's plant in South Wales, the automaker told Reuters last week. No buyer has been found for Tata Steel’s UK operations.
Nissan is expanding its steel press shop at the Sunderland factory. Last year the automaker announced it would invest 37 million pounds to build its eighth press line, using a 5,200 metric ton press to make hood and roof panels for new models.
One of those models will be the second-generation Juke, which will be built on the new CMF-B small car platform that Nissan shares with alliance partner Renault. Richardson declined to say when the Juke would go into production when asked. The new press is expected to be ready in January 2017, Richardson said.
The Sunderland plant also builds the Nissan Qashqai, Europe’s best-selling SUV, Leaf electric car as well as the Q30 and QX30 for sister brand Infiniti.