LONDON, Nov 23 — Japanese auto giant Nissan will commit tomorrow to building electric models of two best-selling cars in Sunderland, northeastern England, in an investment of more than £1 billion (RM5.8 billion), the Financial Times reported.

The business daily, citing people briefed on the plans, said that Nissan’s decision to produce electric versions of its Qashqai and Juke vehicles in Sunderland has been aided by UK government financial support that could total hundreds of millions of pounds.

The move would help secure the future of 6,000 jobs at Nissan’s largest European facility, which also has a dedicated electric battery plant nearby.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to attend the Sunderland factory for tomorrow’s announcement which is due from Nissan chief executive Makoto Uchida, the report added.

A Nissan spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.

Finance minister Jeremy Hunt pledged yesterday to invest £4.5 billion in strategic sectors including the auto industry.

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Britain is keen to take a leading role in the production of electric cars as companies and governments accelerate away from fossil-fuel vehicles.

However, last month Sunak softened policies aimed at reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, delaying a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars by five years to 2035.

That still means however that the country’s largely foreign-owned car manufacturing sector must switch to producing fully-electric vehicles.

Nissan had previously warned that a no-deal Brexit would threaten the Sunderland site, but committed to its future after the government agreed a trade deal.

Yet the nation’s car industry organisation warned last month that automakers will soon face a damaging 10-per cent hike in customs duties on electric cars crossing the Channel.

Britain left the European Union in 2021 after clinching a last-gasp free trade agreement which removed tariffs on cars.

But under the deal, from January 1, 2024, at least 45 per cent of the value of vehicle parts must originate from Britain or the European Union in order to be exempt from customs duties.

Electric car batteries often originate from China, despite UK efforts to establish its own production and they can represent a significant chunk of the sale price. — AFP