The UK’s automotive industry faces a potentially difficult period in the build-up and aftermath of Brexit, but a review of the 2016 referendum shows that most car manufacturing communities voted to leave the European Union.
Nissan’s announcement that it had decided to cancel production of the next X-Trail SUV at the Sunderland plant is the latest bump in what has been a turbulent run up to Britain’s divorce from the EU.
The North East region, which historically is one of the quickest to count election votes, hit headlines in 2016 having posted a 61.3 per cent vote in favour to leave.
However, a new review of data shows that 91 per cent of communities with car factories in their local areas voted in favour to leave.
Nissan’s decision to pull the next-generation X-Trail from the Sunderland assembly line is a painful blow for the UK’s biggest single vehicle factory.
The Wearside facility currently produces the popular Qashqai and Juke SUVs as well as the Leaf electric car and sister-brand Infiniti’s Q30 hatchback.
With 7,000 workers employed at this one facility alone, thousands more across the North East are tied to the supply chain that feeds it.
Motoring Research, which conducted the analysis of regional referendum votes, described Sunderland as ‘an area affected by the decline of traditional industries’ and that Nissan was ‘not just part of the economy but central to the financial lifeblood of the region’.
Despite the threat of increased taxes and difficulties moving British-built products across borders, more than six in 10 living in the North East city who voted believed the nation would be better off independent from the EU.
However, Sunderland wasn’t alone.
|Factory||Manufacturer||Voting District||2016 Vote Result|
|Plant Oxford||BMW (Mini)||Oxford||70.3% Remain|
|Longbridge||MG Motor SAIC||Birmingham||50.4% Leave|
|Castle Bromwich||Jaguar Land Rover||Birmingham||50.4% Leave|
|Ellesmere Port||Vauxhall||Cheshire West & Chester||50.7% Leave|
|Crewe||Bentley||Cheshire East||51.2% Leave|
|Gaydon||Aston Martin||Stratford-on-Avon||51.6% Leave|
|Halewood||Jaguar Land Rover||Knowsley||51.6% Leave|
|Hethel||Lotus||South Norfolk||51.7% Leave|
|Malvern||Morgan||Malvern Hills||52.2% Leave|
|Honda of the UK||Honda||Swindon||54.7% Leave|
|Plant Swindon||BMW (Mini)||Swindon||54.7% Leave|
|Whitley||Jaguar Land Rover||Coventry||55.6% Leave|
|Solihull||Jaguar Land Rover||Solihull||56.2% Leave|
|Burnaston||Toyota UK||South Derbyshire||60.4% Leave|
|Sunderland||Nissan UK||Sunderland||61.3% Leave|
|Dagenham||Ford||Barking & Dagenham||62.4% Leave|
|Wolverhampton||Jaguar Land Rover||South Staffordshire||64.8% Leave|
|Plant Hams Hall||BMW||North Warwickshire||66.9% Leave|
|Source: Motoring Research|
Sunderland is home to the biggest car factory in the UK. Nissan employs 7,000 workers at the site
Despite Nissan being one of the biggest employers in the area and possibly impacted by Britain’s divorce from the EU, more than 3 in 5 locals voted leave
Data shows that districts linked to no fewer than 21 other car factories and sites across the UK also voted to leave.
This includes all five Jaguar Land Rover factories in the UK, the Burnaston Toyota UK plant currently building the all-new Corolla hatchback and the Honda UK’s Swindon facility that produces the Civic hatchback for the global market.
JLR – Britain’s biggest car maker, which produced almost 450,000 units in 2018, confirmed last month that it is to make 4,500 job cuts, mainly in the UK, following 1,500 job losses last year.
The manufacturer has been hammered by the fall in demand for diesel cars, though some fear production could gradually be moved away from the UK and to the new £1billion facility in Slovakia following Brexit.
JLR said the 4,500 global redundancies will start will voluntary redundancies as unions promised to ‘scrutinise the business case’ for the cuts.
Some 56.2% of voters in Solihull – one of Jaguar Land Rover’s main UK locations – chose to leave the EU
With the car maker being hammered by the drop in demand for diesel cars, the firm has been forced to cut around 4,500 jobs
Those who voted in South Derbyshire, where the Burnaston Toyota factory is located, chose leave by over 60%
Just two voted remain.
This included Oxford, which is home to the Mini car plant.
It was one of the first to announce – through owners BMW – that it will cease production immediately after Britain leaves the EU in March in order to ‘minimise the risk of any possible short-term parts-supply disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit’.
Residents in Oxford voted 70.3 per cent in favour for Britain to continue to be a member of the EU.
Woking, which is the home of supercar-maker McLaren, also voted 56.2 per cent to remain.
Voters in Oxford – the home of the BMW Mini plant – had the highest percentage of remain voters of all car-making communities
Woking, where the McLaren Technology Centre is based, was the only other region with a substantial car factory to vote in favour of staying in the EU
Which car-building communities voted to leave?
Nine voting districts, covering eight separate car production facilities, voted with a marginal swing towards leave.
These various companies accounted for a combined total of more than 12,000 employees at the time of the vote, with Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port facility alone producing more than 118,000 cars in 2016, Motoring Research said.
A third of the 1,900-strong workforce at the factory is being axed to cut costs and make the plant more efficient, it was confirmed late in 2018 and earlier this year.
There were seven stronger leave-voting areas accounted for a staggering 22,000 automotive jobs, including Sunderland
Nissan’s Sunderland plant employs around 7,000 workers, many of them being locals
Motoring Research said the automotive sector – even those deeply linked with the local economy – had little affect on how people voted
There were seven stronger leave-voting areas accounted for a staggering 22,000 automotive jobs, including Sunderland, Burnaston and JLR’s Solihull facility.
The final set of five factories are spread across a wide geographic area, with more than 15,000 employees split between them.
John Redfern who undertook the vote analysis for Motoring research said: ‘The 2016 EU referendum is a deeply polarising topic, with the reasons for how individuals voted often complex and multifaceted.
‘What our research does show is that despite local economies often being deeply linked to the local automotive sector, for most areas this did not affect how they voted.’
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