Spain says it will do all it can to reverse Nissan closure, workers protest
By Joan Faus and Ingrid Melander
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Spain said on Thursday it would do everything possible to stop Nissan from closing its main car factory in the country as angry workers burned tyres and shouted "War" outside the Barcelona plant.
The Spanish government could seek an alternative partner to keep the plant open, it said
The decision by Japan's Nissan Motor Co earlier on Thursday to shut the 3,000-worker plant from December as part of global cost cuts is a blow for the euro zone's fourth-largest economy at a time when unemployment is rising and a recession is looming due to the coronavirus crisis.
The government, which said in January after meeting officials from the Renault-Nissan alliance that jobs at the plant were "guaranteed," lamented the decision and urged Nissan to look at other options.
"We regret it and will do everything we can to overturn it," Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya told Reuters.
The government could talk to other players about the plant and Spain has attractive assets for "any business willing to manufacture cars", she said.
The main opposition party blamed the leftist coalition government for the closure and failing the Nissan workers.
The Catalan regional government also urged Nissan to reconsider its decision and said it had offered the carmaker a 100 million euro ($111 million) aid package to produce new models, but had received no answer.
That would have been on top of the 25 million euros in public aid Nissan had received in the past 15 years from regional authorities, said Angels Chacon, Catalonia's top business official.
Nissan said it would slash its global production capacity by a fifth to help reduce its fixed costs by 300 billion yen ($2.8 billion) as it looks to become smaller and more cost-efficient after posting its first loss in 11 years.
"There was no viable solution for the future of the Barcelona factory," the chairman of Nissan in Europe, Gianluca De Ficchy, told reporters citing a low output.
Two smaller Nissan plants in northern Spain will remain open.
The plant and the nearby facilities employ 3,000 workers and the closures could indirectly affect up to 25,000 jobs, unions say. The car industry accounts for about 10% of Spain's gross domestic product, according to producers association ANFAC.
More than 1,000 masked workers blocked the area surrounding Nissan's plant, first with a procession of vehicles then burning a pile of tyres at its entrance. They also cut off roads.
The closure would cost Nissan as much as 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), the government said, arguing that investing in the factory would be a cheaper alternative.
Carmaking alliance partners Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors said on Wednesday they were reorganising their global production to save costs and become more efficient.
Renault, which will now take the lead for the alliance in Europe, has two factories in Spain.
A spokesman for Renault in Spain declined to comment on the possibility of layoffs and said it would provide details on the future of its operations on Friday.
The Barcelona plant, which has been operating since the 1980s, mainly produces electric vans and pickup trucks and is Nissan's main European plant after one in Sunderland, England.
($1 = 0.9048 euros)
(Reporting by Luis Felipe Castilleja in Barcelona and Inti Landauro, Belén Carreño and Ingrid Melander in Madrid; Additional reporting by Emma Pinedo, Paola Luelmo, Jordi Rubio and Nathan Allen, Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSWan)