Toyota reportedly plans to build the next generation Auris at its Burnaston site in Derbyshire – but only if the UK secures a transitional deal in Brexit negotiations.
Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that Toyota is working under the assumption that a transitional deal will be secured, one which extends key needs for the auto industry such as staying in the single market and customs union.
A decision on the next generation Auris will likely be made by Toyota at the end of the year, according to a government briefing paper obtained by Reuters.
The current generation Auris is being manufactured at the Burnaston factory until 2021. Decisions on the manufacture of new cars are typically made there years in advance.
Responding to the Reuters story, Toyota did not confirm what the sources said. In an official statement the company said that with regard to specific models, “Toyota has never commented on future production plans as a matter of course.”
But Toyota did highlight the vital importance of securing a good Brexit deal.
“The company’s position on Brexit has remained consistent since the UK referendum – that a competitive environment for the UK automotive sector must be maintained in the future,” Toyota noted. “This means continued tariff and barrier-free market access between the UK and Europe that is predictable and uncomplicated.
The news follows a warning from a senior Toyota executive that the company’s future investment in the UK was at risk because of Brexit uncertainty.
“A few months ago the UK government was saying ‘we’re sure we’ll be able to negotiate [a deal] without any trade tax,”’ Toyota executive vice president Didier Leroy told Reuters in an interview at the Frankfurt car show in September. “They are not saying that any more.
“It’s clear that if we have to wait two to three more years to have a clarity on this topic, we will have a big question mark about our future investment in the country.”
In March, Toyota committed to £240m in investment to upgrade the Burnaston plant, but the investment was decided at a time when the industry was given repeated assurances from the government.
Toyota employs about 3,000 people in the UK, both at the Burnaston plant and an engine plant in Deeside, North Wales.
Unite senior rep at Toyota Pete Tsouvallaris highlighted the importance of securing a transitional deal to protect the thousands of jobs at Toyota and the wider supply chain, with whole communities dependent on the highly skilled jobs and the prosperity they bring.
Responding to reports that the next generation Auris will be produced at the Burnaston plant, Tsouvallaris said, “We hope that the government will note Toyota’s concern to secure a transition deal. This is essential to secure continued investment in a plant which brings skilled jobs and prosperity to the East Midlands.
“The importance of a deal to the UK’s automotive industry cannot be underplayed,” he added. “Access to a single market and customs union in order to secure the same friction-less trade we have today is vital.
“We implore the cabinet to focus on delivering this transition period. Without it and the certainty for trade that it brings, we are extremely fearful that investment will melt away from the UK.”