A spokesman said that under a two-year contract starting this year Barclays staff would be allowed to choose between Rovers and Nissans, replacing a Rover- Ford deal that has run since 1991.
But he denied reports that the primary motive for the switch was related to the comparative UK content of the cars. 'We were able to get a better deal with those companies,' he said. Ford said it did not win the business because 'we were simply not prepared to match the discount offered'.
The contract is believed to guarantee a minimum purchase of 1,000 cars a year, worth pounds 5m- pounds 10m, from each supplier.
The spokesman added that Barclays had always had a policy of buying primarily British cars. Ford has long been classified as British, and in 1991 the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders switched Nissan from 'import' to 'domestic' classification.
Nissan is now on the buying list of 130 large UK companies, although industry sources say the Barclays deal should be its most valuable yet.
Although the best-selling Nissan under the deal is likely to be the Sunderland-built Primera, Barclays will not restrict its staff to cars made in Britain. Nine Nissans are on sale in the UK, of which only two - the Primera and Micra - are British-built.
It is virtually impossible to establish whether Fords or Nissans are more 'British' because local content figures refer only to the EC. Ford's UK factories claim 99 per cent and Nissan Sunderland more than 80 per cent. Nissan says 77 per cent of this is British, while Ford points out that most of its engines are UK-built.
Industry sources say that the flow of components makes all such figures suspect.
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