Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Honda shutting United Kingdom plant in latest blow to British vehicle industry

Honda CR-V Honda CR-V
Lloyd Bates | 20 February, 2019, 04:40

Honda has confirmed that its only European factory, in the English town of Swindon, will close in 2021 with the direct loss of around 3500 jobs.

General view of the entrance to the Honda auto plant in Swindon.

The Honda Civic hatchback plant employs about 3,500 people plus another 3,500 from subsidiaries and supply chain partners who rely on the plant, which the automaker said will close in 2021. It said: "The significant challenges of electrification will see Honda revise its global manufacturing operations, and focus activity in regions where it expects to have high production volumes".

Surprisingly, the closure isn't a result of Brexit but instead due to "unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry" which has caused Honda to restructure its global manufacturing network, according to an official statement.

"They are clear this is based on global trends and not Brexit", Tomlinson said.

Nissan and Ford have also warned that jobs could be lost at British plants as Britain prepares to leave the European Union (EU), but local member of parliament Justin Tomlinson said the Honda decision was not down to Brexit.

Honda also said it will stop making the current Civic Sedan model in Turkey but will continue business operations in the country. Interestingly, though, Honda specifically said production in North America wouldn't start until the next-generation Civic is launched.

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Ford Motor, announcing thousands of job cuts in Europe this year, last week said a hard Brexit would be " catastrophic" for the United Kingdom auto industry and its own production facilities.

Swindon serves as Honda's European hub.

Swindon North MP Mr Tomlinson said he and fellow Tory MP Robert Buckland (Swindon South) had spoken to the Business Secretary and the vehicle firm about the decision.

"Workers at Honda must not pay the price for the prime minister playing to the hardliners in her party and we urge Honda to sit down urgently with Unite to discuss a way forward for the plant, " said Frances O'Grady.

A statement from Honda has said: 'This proposal comes as Honda accelerates its commitment to electrified cars, in response to the unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry.

Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota executive vice-president, noted that the firm's assembly plant in Burnaston, central England, which produces 600 vehicles per day, operates under the "just-in-time" system that relies on a smooth flow of components from the EU. "This is not a Brexit-related issue for us", Ian Howells, senior vice president for Honda in Europe, told the BBC.

The recently agreed EU-Japan trade agreement means tariffs on cars from Japan to the continent will be eliminated, while Britain is struggling to make progress on talks over post-Brexit trade relations with Tokyo.

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