Nissan’s Sunderland plant has suffered another blow after the company cancelled production of two Infiniti models currently made at the site in northern England.
Last month, Nissan reversed its decision to make the X-Trail sport utility vehicle in Sunderland, deciding to produce it in Japan instead.
The car plant, the UK’s largest, was extended and upgraded in order to start making Infiniti models in 2016. But sales in Europe have been disappointing and the brand will withdraw from western Europe early next year.
Focus will shift to sales in the US and China instead, where the Infiniti is already popular, the company said. It also has plans for electric versions of the car and to reduce the number of diesel models it sells.
UK car production fell 9 per cent last year and investment has dwindled over concerns about Brexit.
Honda will close its Swindon plant in 2021, while other companies have warned that investments in their UK plants may be at risk.
Sunderland is the only European site that produces Infiniti cars. Production of the two models will end in the middle of this year.
The company said that “plant management will discuss any impact on the plant with employees and their representatives”.
Fewer than 250 of the site’s 7,000 employees are likely to be affected.
The site produced about 12,000 Infiniti models last year, well short of the 60,000 the company had expected to make a year.
The model, which competes with the Mercedes A-class, was at the centre of the brand’s efforts to break into the ferociously competitive European premium car market, which is dominated by the three largest German brands Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
Sunderland, which employs about 7,000 people, also makes the Qashqai sport utility vehicle, as well as the Juke car and the electric Leaf car.
Nissan laid off several hundred workers last year because of falling sales of diesel vehicles.
Its decision to shift X-Trail production to Japan was partly due to the fall in demand for diesel cars.
The Unite union said that it hoped that Infiniti workers could be redeployed to other parts of the site.
“We will also be seeking assurances on future employment levels and the production of other models at Sunderland,” the union said.