Nissan has confirmed its new X-Trail model will NOT be built at its Sunderland plant - and has said Brexit 'uncertainty' is not helping.
The news will come as a huge blow to the near 7,000-strong workforce at the car firm's Wearside plant, which produces around 2,000 cars a day and has been active since 1986.
Nissan had previously announced in 2016 that the next-generation X-Trail for the European market would be built on Sunderland, where it already makes the Qashqai, Juke, Q30, Note and the zero-emission electric Leaf.
Instead, the X-Trail will now be produced at its Kyushu plant in Japan.
Nissan has confirmed that future models planned for the Sunderland plant - the next-generation Juke and Qashqai - are unaffected. It acknowledged the news would be "disappointing" for staff but insisted it still has "full confidence" in its Sunderland workforce.
Nissan Executive Vice President for Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management, Hideyuki Sakamoto, said: "A model like X-Trail is manufactured in multiple locations globally, and can therefore be re-evaluated based on changes to the business environment. As always, Nissan has to make optimal use of its global investments for the benefits of its customers."
Nissan Europe Chairman Gianluca de Ficchy said: "Nissan is investing heavily in new technologies and powertrains for the next generation of vehicles in our Sunderland plant. To support this we are taking advantage of our global assets, and with X-Trail already manufactured in Japan, we can reduce our upfront investment costs.
"We appreciate this will be disappointing for our UK team and partners. Our workforce in Sunderland has our full confidence, and will continue to benefit from the investment planned for Juke and Qashqai.
"While we have taken this decision for business reasons, the continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future."
Mr de Ficchy said that the decision had been taken for "business reasons" affected by rules on diesel engines and reduced sales.
The announcement that the X-Trail would be built in Japan was made in a letter to staff that followed a day of political rows between Brexit supporters and opponents over the reason for one of Wearside's largest employers reneging on a 2016 decision to build the car there.
In the letter, Mr de Ficchy said: "Today's announcement will be interpreted by a lot of people as a decision related to Brexit.
"We have taken this decision for the business reasons I've explained, but clearly the uncertainty around the UK's future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future."
Nissan said production of the next-generation Juke and Qashqai in Sunderland, the biggest car plant in the UK, is supported by major new facilities including a recently-launched new Paint facility and a second new extra-large press.
Current production in Sunderland also includes the Nissan LEAF, Europe’s best-selling electric car, which reached a record 46,989 production last year, up 177% from the previous year. The new Nissan LEAF e+ upgrade, including an extended-range 62kwh battery, launches in the coming months.