Toyota's Burnaston plant is "here to stay" despite its future appearing to be in doubt in comments made by its own vice-president over the Brexit result.
Fears grew that Toyota could move its production out of the UK as a result of the Government's position on Brexit and that the 2,500 jobs there could be at risk.
Executive vice-president Didier Leroy had warned that plans to upgrade Burnaston could be at risk of collapsing. Back in March the car-maker announced plans to invest £240 million in the Burnaston factory after apparently being handed written guarantees from the Government that car exports from Britain would not attract duty.
But speaking in an interview with Reuters at the Frankfurt car show, Mr Leroy said there could be a "big question mark" over Toyota's future spending in the UK, due to a shift in the Government's position on Europe after the referendum in 2016. A lack of clarity in his comments made on Tuesday, September 12, suggested the future was in doubt its Burnaston plant.
He had said: "A few months ago the Government was saying: 'We're sure we'll be able to negotiate (a deal) without any trade tax'. They are not saying that any more.
"We will not close the (Burnaston) plant tomorrow morning but, if in two to three years, we have to decide some future investments, of course the key point will be the competitiveness of this plant in future."
Pro-EU Lib Dem MP Tom Brake said he was deeply troubled by Mr Leroy's comments and that it was clear from his comments jobs at the Burnaston factory were under threat.
But, now, Toyota Manufacturing UK deputy managing director Tony Walker has attempted to ease fears over the plant's future by insisting a £240 million upgrade of the factory was already under way and that it was "here to stay".
He said: "It is by being competitive that we secure our future. That means building high quality cars, with high productivity and low cost. Didier Leroy is on record as saying that our plant efficiency is very good and that he and top management trust and respect our member's (workers) skills, motivation and capabilities.
"At Burnaston, we are all committed and working hard to continuously enhance our competitiveness, so that we can have a long term future for our plant.
"The investment of £240 million to prepare the plant for the introduction of the new TNGA platform vehicles is going ahead as planned.
"We would like to be clear, nothing has changed. With this investment, and our members' capabilities, we are committed to achieving the competitiveness which will enable us to continue making cars at Burnaston long into the future."
When Toyota announced plans to invest £240 million in its Burnaston plant in March, the car giant called for continued tariff and barrier-free access between the UK and Europe.
Mr Leroy also said at the car show: "It's clear that, if we have to wait two to three more years to have clarity on this topic, we will have a big question mark about our future investment in the country."
Mr Leroy, Toyota's top foreign executive, said the company could not wait indefinitely before deciding whether to build a new model at Burnaston after production of the Avensis model ends. The site also builds the smaller Auris.
"We cannot take this kind of decision before we have clarity on the future trade relationship," said Mr Leroy.
Labour's Chris Williamson, who represents Derby North, said the comments should be taken "very seriously".
He said that the unique selling point that former Labour Derbyshire County Council leader David Bookbinder used to lure Toyota to Derbyshire in the first place was access to the single market.
Mr Williamson said: "It's a concern. I don't think you can afford to sit back and say they're just crying wolf. We've got to take it very seriously.
"What we (Labour) have said is that the way we would negotiate is to make sure we secure tax-free access to the single-market after we come out of the EU."
Mr Williamson said: "The Government has made a completely chaotic car crash out of the Brexit negotiation so far. We are six months after Article 50 was enacted and we don't seem to be any further forward in reaching a settlement that will work for most people in the country. That's why we've called for the transition period."
Asked whether he expected concerns like Toyota's to be raised by other big Derby firms, he said "everyone in industry is going to be concerned about the future".
Mr Williamson said: "We are in uncharted territory. I campaigned for us to stay in the European Union but the vote went the way it did and I fully accept the result. Now the focus needs to be on insuring we get a Brexit that works in the interests of the many, not the few."
South Derbyshire MP Heather Wheeler, whose constituency includes the Toyota factory had originally campaigned for Britain to leave the EU.
She said: "I am very pleased that Toyota have been able to put their staff minds at rest about the comments made by Didier Leroy and that there was no change in the situation about investment at the Burnaston factory. The confirmed £140 million pounds investment for a new styled car is a great boost for the area and everyone at the factory.
"Mr Leroy was stating the obvious that more future investment is always dependent on the factory being efficient – a truism of business – nothing more. I am saddened that for whatever reason these comments were reported in a confusing, wrong and potentially harmful way. I am glad the matter has been settled."
Burton Mail readers have their say
Readers have taken to the Burton Mail's Facebook page to have their say on the situation. Here's what you had to say:
Tom Plant said: "Don't ever think international car manufacturers are anything other than businesses that have to carry out most profitable practices for their shareholders.
"This year in Australia, because the Tory government stopped subsidies and dared them to leave and waste all their investments, Ford, General Motors and Toyota are closing, bringing car and component manufacturing industries to a complete close, losing tens of thousands of jobs and effectively scrapping the associated skills base. Nothing personal, but if they don't make money, they will go."
Brenton Talbot said: "Why would a company pull out when they have spend how many thousands on building all they have for that site?"
Mike Thompson said: "This is why they are investing in the site?"
Other readers have made their thoughts clear on the website.
One said: "The problem with business investment is that it is for the medium and long term. It is based on perceptions of risk and opportunity. If there is confusion, you delay it or go where there is less risk and clearer opportunity.
"They don't care about Brexit, only about the impact of Brexit on relations with other countries - including their own."
Another said: "What did you expect? Business hates uncertainty."