Following the announcement that two new car ranges will be built in Sunderland by Nissan after assurances from the government, we asked Ian Hepplewhite - general manager engineering at logistics partner Vantec Europe - what this means for them?
Kirsty Adams (KA): Ian, the building of the Qashqai and the X-Trail SUV in Sunderland had been in doubt following the Brexit vote. What does the decision to build the next Qashqui at the Sunderland plant - which operates next door to you - mean for your business?
Ian Hepplewhite (IH): For us it's not about job creation it's about the security of existing jobs. They currently build the Nissan Qashqai here, so it's good to know they plan to build the second generation model here too, which secures the plant until 2024.
KA: Ian was it ever really in doubt? Considering the huge operation you have built to support your biggest client?
IH: Yes, because individual plants bid to win the contract to build each car. There is no certainty that your plant will win the next model. If a Spanish plant had won the Qashqai contract, it would have meant a lot of job losses in the North East at the Nissan plant - and for us - because the Qashqai is half of the production output at the Sunderland plant.
KA: Does that make you feel quite vulnerable?
IH: Yes, I think that’s always the case when you have a large contract, which is one of the reasons we try to diversify - it's not just Nissan we supply to. We also supply to Cummins Engines, Komatsu UK, Thorn Lighting and have extended down South to supply to Rolls Royce Motor Cars.
Vantec Europe’s newest warehouse in Sunderland opened in April 2016 and was the company’s second major investment in the city since 2012. The Hillthorn warehouse was built to exclusively handle logistics work for Nissan. The company opened another large scale, 417,000 sq ft warehouse on Turbine Business Park to handle work for Nissan, three years earlier which won the SHD Logistics New Facility Award in 2014.