* PM May meets Nissan CEO in Downing Street
* Nissan investment decision due by year-end - source
* Ghosn called for Brexit compensation deal last month
* May says to promote car industry competitiveness
(Recasts, adds quotes, source)
By Costas Pitas
LONDON, Oct 14 Japan's Nissan will
decide by the end of the year whether to build its new Qashqai
SUV model at Britain's biggest car plant, a source told Reuters,
after CEO Carlos Ghosn met Prime Minister Theresa May to seek
reassurance over the impact of Brexit.
Just weeks after telling Britain that he could scrap new
investment unless he got a guarantee of compensation for costs
related to Brexit, Chief Executive Ghosn held talks with May in
her Downing Street residence in central London.
Businesses have been concerned that Britain is headed
towards a "hard Brexit", which would leave it outside the
European single market and facing tariffs of up to 10 percent on
Nissan, which made nearly one in three of Britain's 1.6
million cars last year, already builds the Qashqai sport utility
vehicle at its Sunderland plant in northern England. The time it
takes to bring a new car into production means Nissan needs to
decide on the location of its next generation model soon.
"The decision-making process is in the next few weeks and
months with a decision expected before the end of the year," a
company source told Reuters on Friday, adding that the location
might not be announced until early next year.
The source also said that a further meeting between May and
Ghosn had not been scheduled but that senior Nissan and
government officials would continue meeting in the coming weeks.
After speaking to May, Ghosn did not disclose whether the
issue of compensation had been raised.
"I am confident the British government will continue to
ensure the UK remains a competitive place to do business," said
Ghosn, nicknamed "le cost killer" for slashing expenditure at
French carmaker Renault which he also heads.
Ghosn's concerns over trade barriers led other carmakers to
warn about the consequences of a "hard Brexit", favoured by some
ruling Conservatives who wish to impose limits on immigration, a
key concern of many voters who backed Brexit in June's
The chief executive of Britain's biggest automaker Jaguar
Land Rover told Reuters that any Brexit deal would
have to guarantee a "level playing field", opening up the
possibility that others too would seek financial guarantees.
The government has said it would do everything it could to
encourage, develop and support strategic sectors of the economy
such as car manufacturing. May said on Friday she would
cooperate with the Japanese carmaker in the future.
"We will continue to work with Nissan as we develop the
environment for competitiveness of the automotive industry here
in the UK to ensure its success," she said after meeting Ghosn.
Last month Japan published a list of requests to Britain and
the EU over Brexit, including maintaining the current duty-free
trade between Britain and the EU and preventing any additional
customs clearance burden on trade.
Nissan, Toyota and Honda together built
almost half of all of Britain's cars in 2015.
The largely foreign-owned car industry was a strong
supporter of continued membership of the European Union ahead of
the June 23 vote, benefiting from unfettered access to the
world's biggest trading bloc and its standardised regulations.
On Wednesday, a dispute between Britain's biggest retailer
Tesco and consumer goods company Unilever
caused by a plunge in the pound since Britons voted to leave the
EU highlighted business tensions following Brexit.
Ghosn said that it was important that the Sunderland
facility, which directly employs 7,000 people and many more
through the supply chain, remains one of the firm's most
"We want to ensure that this high-performing,
high-employment factory remains competitive globally and
continues to deliver for our business and for Britain."
(Additional reporting by Kylie Maclellan; editing by Guy