LONDON -- Nissan has pushed back against reports that it plans to reduce operations in Europe to focus on SUVs as part of a global turnaround plan.
Nissan will rely on its two best-selling SUVs, the Qashqai and Juke, to maintain a presence in Europe while selling its factory in Barcelona, Spain, according to sources.
In a statement to Automotive News Europe, Nissan said it "remains fully committed to strengthening our product lineup in Europe as part of our ongoing efforts to make the business more competitive."
The launch of the new-generation Juke small SUV in November was the first step in renewing its European passenger car lineup, Nissan said.
Europe was Nissan's worst performing region financially in the nine months to the end of December, when it lost the equivalent of 222 million euros, company records show. The company has only had one profitable year in its European region, which includes Russia, since 2012.
Nissan's sales in Europe are heavily dependent on the Qashqai and Juke, both of which are built in its factory in Sunderland, England, the UK's biggest car plant.
The Qashqai is its European best-seller, with sales of 42,590 in the first three months, down 31 percent, according to JATO Dynamics market researchers. Juke sales dropped 19 percent to 15,025. Nissan's total European sales fell 26 percent to 86,205 through March.
Nissan unveiled a new stamping line at the Sunderland plant in March in preparation for production of the third-generation Qashqai.
The new Qashqai is expected to arrive in 2021 and will be available with hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, sources have said.
Sunderland built 325,243 cars in the financial year to the end of March, down 22 percent, company figures show.
Reports last year said Nissan was exploring the sale of its plants in Sunderland and Barcelona, with the Barcelona plant most at risk.
Production at the Barcelona plant fell 38 percent in the financial year to the end of March to 55,022 vehicles after it lost the Pulsar compact car in 2018 and the combustion engine version of the NV200 van in 2019.
The plant will also lose the Mercedes X-Class pickup based on the Nissan Navara. It also builds the slow-selling Renault Alaskan pickup.
Nissan Europe is expected to rely more heavily on models built in Japan in the future. It will import the new X-Trail to Europe from Japan this year after dropping plans to build the midsize SUV in Sunderland,
Exports of Nissan cars to Europe from Japan grew 32 percent to 37,101 in the 12 months to the end of March, Nissan figures show. The EU and Japan are phasing out auto tariffs as part of a free-trade deal.
Nissan is expected to announce its restructuring plan on May 28. Its strategy will be to free resources from underperforming businesses so Nissan can eventually channel more resources into the U.S., Chinese and Japanese markets, sources told Automotive News, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe.