UK learns from Nissan deal as Brexit talks with Bentley remain confidential
16 May 2017
The British Government has declined to release details of talks with Volkswagen (VW) owned vehicle manufacturer Bentley over guarantees made to secure its manufacturing in the country after Brexit.
The company built over 11,000 vehicles at its plant in central England during 2016 and is due to make a decision connected to production of its future models at the start of 2018. With parent company VW having plants throughout Europe able to take extra capacity and the potential of having to pay tariffs to bring engines and other parts into the UK should no free trade deal be struck, there is a possibility Bentley production may move to the continent.
In December 2016, a meeting was held between the vehicle manufacturer and junior Brexit minister David Jones. However a Freedom of Information request to see notes concerning the meeting has been denied, as the Department for Exiting the European Union believes it may make firms reluctant to speak to the government in the future.
Bentley is not the only vehicle manufacturer concerned by Brexit and hoping for a good deal on trade. Nissan has already received assurances of compensation in the event of tariffs, agreeing to build two new models at its plant in Sunderland.
The assurance to Nissan may prove to be an own-goal to the UK government. Speaking to Reuters in March 2017, Bentley chief executive Wolfgang Duerheimer said: ‘You can get commitments and I count on commitments also from the UK Government and, as I understood, they already gave these to other brands at certain times. So when we come closer [to Brexit] we will see what we have in our hands.’
Ford is another company to express concern. While the company does not manufacture vehicles in the UK anymore, the country does house two of its biggest engine plants. The company has warned that the competitiveness of the UK automotive industry would be put at risk if there is no deal on free trade with Europe.
The company has vowed to do whatever it takes to remain profitable in Europe and already expects to cut 1,100 jobs from its plant in Bridgend by 2021, leaving just 600 workers there.
This comes as Ford has also announced plans to reduce its workforce in the US and Asia by 10%, as part of a previously announced plan to cut costs by $3 billion (€2.7 billion), due to signs of a decline in the US vehicle market after seven years of consecutive growth.
While vehicle manufacturers are nervous about the potential lack of a trade deal, drivers in the UK believe that Brexit will mean more British built cars and parts. A survey by garage comparison company Servicing Stop has revealed that 40% of the 1,700 motorists surveyed feel that once the divorce is settled, manufacturers will look to the country to build more and take advantage of any deals with China, the USA and India.