CEO of the Japanese car maker Nissan hinted the company could reconsider its future in the UK if the country decides to leave the EU.
Speaking at the launch of a new model of Nissan’s Qashqai vehicle, Carlos Ghosn suggested the future of the plant in Sunderland could become uncertain if the referendum promised by David Cameron in case Conservatives win the next election decides against continuing the UK's EU membership.
"If anything has to change we (would) need to reconsider our strategy and our investments for the future," Ghosn said.
The Sunderland factory, employing some 6,500 workers, will be manufacturing the new Qashqai vehicle - the all new crossover featuring more efficient engines and advanced safety features, which will go on sale in February 2014.
Asked about the prospect of Britain leaving the EU, Mr Ghosn told the BBC: "Obviously it's going to be a major factor happening and we are going to need to consider what does it mean for us for the future.
"I'm not worried about Sunderland. Sunderland is a very competitive plant, it's a very productive plant and it's a European plant based in the UK.
The UK’s membership in the EU has been criticised by many. In an article in the Times, Lord Jones of Birmingham - who as Digby Jones was director general of the CBI - said Britain must be ready to leave the EU to boost its competitiveness in the open market.
Lord Jones called the EU a ‘job destroyer’ and said leaving would not be an ‘unattractive option’.
John Mills, co-chairman of the Business for Britain group, which is seeking reform of the UK's EU membership, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If Britain were to leave the EU - and that's not what Business for Britain is advocating - I think that Nissan and any other car company would have to take a view as to what the prospects were, particularly if we continue to have free trade with Europe, which is very likely to happen.
"What we are saying is that if there's renegotiation then a much larger proportion of British business would want to stay in. I think Mr Ghosn would be wise to support what we say, which is to push for these negotiations to be successfully accomplished."
Fiona Hall, Liberal Democrat MEP for the North East, said: "This is a stark warning about the catastrophic damage the North East economy would suffer if we were to pull out, and it is one we cannot afford to ignore.
"Nissan is not just 6,000 jobs on Wearside, it is many thousands more across the region.
"Their importance to the North East can hardly be overstated.
"Workers and their families will rightly be asking why Ukip and the Conservatives are playing fast and loose with their jobs by talking up an exit instead of focusing on doing more to encourage the recovery.
"Fortunately I think Mr Ghosn is right when he says an exit is unlikely, because the business case for staying in is overwhelming.
"But the uncertainty that has been created by politicians putting their self-interest ahead of the region's economic well-being is already jeopardising investment."