Car manufacturing
Business 29/09/2021

China's Great Wall Motor favourite to replace Nissan

The Asian company, which plans to produce 100,000 electric vehicles per year, is the best positioned

3 min
Nissan's headquarters in the Zona Franca of Barcelona

BarcelonaNissan's reindustrialization committee, which has to decide which company will replace the automaker, has entered its last phase with only three months left before the three factories the Japanese brand has in Catalonia close definitively and leave 2,500 workers jobless.

The committee, which includes the Spanish government, the Generalitat, trade unions and Nissan itself, is scheduled to meet this Friday to announce with which of the five companies currently on the table will get to negotiate a final contract. ARA has learnt that the best positioned company to occupy the Zona Franca facilities, which is the largest plant, is the Chinese electric car manufacturer Great Wall Motor. The electromobility hub, formed by several companies and led by the Catalan QEV Technologies based in Montmeló, also appears as a strong candidate.

Both the Chinese manufacturer Great Wall Motor and the hub have already had several contacts with the Spanish and Catalan governments and can absorb the current Nissan workforce in its entirety. The first candidate, however, is the one that has created the best impression. In fact, the Asian company, which in recent weeks has said it wants to manufacture cars in Spain or Italy, landed this September in the Old Continent. The company, one of the most important Chinese manufacturers of SUVs and vans, announced during the Motor Show held in early September in Munich the launch of its first two models in the European market, which will be by brands Ora and Wey. They are to be the Ora Cat, an affordable electric vehicle, and the Wey Coffee 01, a slightly more upscale plug-in hybrid. The first deliveries of the two models will be made in Europe during the first half of next year. The Chinese company's goal is to produce 100,000 cars a year at the Barcelona factory.

As for the hub, which is presented under the banner of decarbonisation, is captained by QEV Technologies, a company specialising in electric mobility that has developed sports cars such as the interior of the Hispano Suiza. The Catalan company has allied with BTECH, which works in the development of vehicles and industrialisation for mass production, and with the American hydrogen-car manufacturer Ronn Motor Group (RMG), which has been the last to join the project after abandoning its solo candidacy alone. The plans for the hub, as specified by QEV itself at the end of July, are to make an investment of €1bn over the next five years and create more than 4,000 direct jobs, in addition to 10,000 indirect jobs through suppliers and collaborators. Among the range of vehicles to be produced is a small electric car for private use, car sharing and last mile delivery, three models of electric vans, a small truck and several 8 and 12-metre electric buses.

In total the hub foresees the integration of over ten projects, which have attracted interest from companies such as Volta, Inzile, Lupa or Quantron. The project also plans to continue production of Nissan's e-NV200 electric van, but under a new name. For this to be possible, however, the Japanese company would have to give them a license.

The three companies that the sources consulted believe have been discarded are motorcycle manufacturer Silence, the Belgian group specialising in automotive components Punch and a Chinese company with a long-term project. Instead, Silence could occupy the factory in Montcada i Reixac, which, like the one in Sant Andreu de la Barca, is smaller. In fact, Silence was initially part of the decarbonisation hub, but it has finally decided to present its own project, which foresees an investment of €30m and also includes an application for the e-NV200 van licence.

Workers on the dole

Once the finalists have been decided, all the aspects of the final contract will now have to be negotiated, including the number of workers that will be needed and how they will be employed by the new company, as sources close to the negotiations make clear that they will have to be taken on progressively. There is also no doubt, however, about the fact that the current Nissan workforce will have to go a few months unemployed: the whole process to choose the replacement of the Japanese company is expected to end at the end of the year, and the factories will also close down on December 31. In addition, the company that ends up replacing Nissan will need a few months (maybe even a year) to adapt the facilities to its production model.

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