The announcement of the closure of the Nissan plants in Barcelona hits one of the key sectors of the Spanish economy, the automobile, which represents 10% of the national gross domestic product (GDP) and employs, directly and indirectly, 9% of the active population, according to sector calculations.
If the decision is confirmed and waiting for the Government to find an “alternative partner”, the departure of the Japanese firm will reduce the number of factories active in Spain, being the third major closure suffered by this industry since 2007.
In Spain, Renault, which has just raised 15,000 layoffs in the world, is also closely watched, although it assures that it will keep its factories in the country.
66,000 MANUFACTURING POSTS AND A HUGE VALUE CHAIN
According to data from the manufacturers ’employers’ association Anfac, vehicle manufacturing in Spain employs 66,000 people, a figure that increases to around 300,000 if it is added to the workers in the components industry, part of them from large companies such as Gestamp, Grupo Antolín and Cie Automotive.
In terms of volume, Spain is the second largest automobile manufacturer in Europe, behind only Germany, and leads the “ranking” of European commercial vehicle manufacturing, according to the Spanish Institute of Foreign Trade (ICEX).
In the last year alone, more than 2.8 million vehicles were produced in Spanish factories, compared to more than 5.6 million in Germany, and ahead of 2.3 million in France.
However, the coronavirus crisis and its economic impact, translated into a predictably sustained drop in world demand, have marked a turning point in a sector that, at the same time, was facing its great challenge: reconversion towards sustainable mobility.
This new horizon, marked by the prospects for zero emissions in the European Union – which determine access to certain aid – had been generating certain economic tensions in the companies that were working on restructuring the business before the pandemic dynamited the situation.
THE MAP WITHOUT NISSAN IN BARCELONA
The closure of Nissan in Barcelona, which employs 3,000 people, does not harm the other two factories of the company in national territory, Ávila (specialized in industrial vehicles) and Cantabria (foundry and mechanized), which have 430 and 535 workers, respectively.
However, the weight of this industry falls on Seat (Volkswagen group), the only automobile firm that designs, develops, manufactures and markets vehicles throughout Spain, is the leading industrial R&D investor in the country and represents 1% of the GDP, while exporting 80% of the cars.
The brand with factory in Martorell (Barcelona) -the most important in Spain- has a staff of about 15,000 workers, although it generates about 100,000 jobs as a whole.
The Landaben plant in Pamplona is another plant that will keep its doors open. Opened in 1965, it houses the production of Volkswagen Navarra, has been the birthplace of the famous “Polo” model and more recently, the “T-Cross”, and generates 5,000 direct jobs.
In Vitoria, the factory of Mercedes-Benz continues, the largest company in the Basque Country with around 5,000 workers, chosen to manufacture the EQV 300 electric minivan, the first of the German brand and which is expected to reach the Spanish network next September .
Along with it, the four plants that Renault has in Spain (two in Valladolid, one in Palencia and the other in Seville) will continue to operate, as announced by the group, which employs 14,000 workers in the country through various companies, despite the fact that I would be thinking of cutting 15,000 jobs worldwide.
The future of the industry also passes through Ford’s Valencia plant in Almussafes, especially after the company announced a 42 million investment in it, which in 2021 will add to the plug-in and hybrid versions of the “Kuga” and the “Mondeo” .
Thus, it will become a major factory within the multinational’s electrification strategy, which has invested € 3 billion in Valencia since 2011, and which employs 7,400 employees.
Similarly, the assembly plants of the French group PSA -which brings together brands such as Citroën, Peugeot and Opel- are maintained in Vigo, Zaragoza and Madrid, and those of Iveco in Madrid and Valladolid, where 2,300 and 1,000 people work, respectively.
BARCELONA AND JAÉN, THE BACKGROUND
The possible closure of Nissan in Barcelona is not the first to shake up the Spanish car industry.
In October 2007, the management of Mercedes-Benz announced the closure of its historic Barcelona plant, responsible for the production of the racks and other parts for the “Vito” van and the “Viano” minivan.
In 2011, the Santana factory in Linares (Jaén) followed in its footsteps, which had combined the production of own-brand vehicles, such as the “Anibal Santana” jeep, and manufacturing and assembly for manufacturers such as Iveco or Suzuki.
At the time, it was insisted that the future of the automobile was to find industrial and commercial partners capable of incorporating “technology, design and market”, a trident to which, almost a decade later, the sector seems to continue to entrust itself to emerge.