Honda confirms "with heavy heart" that its Wiltshire factory will close down at the end of the current Civic's lifecycle in 2021
Honda has today confirmed to employees that manufacturing at its Swindon plant will cease. The facility, which was making preparations to build the next generation Civic, will be shut down at the end of the model’s current lifecycle in 2021, at a cost of 3,500 jobs.
The decision was made after “a meaningful and robust consultation process” involving the UK government, consultation groups, and consultants appointed by UNITE. Discussions concluded that there were “no viable alternatives” to the closure.
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Now that the closure is confirmed, Honda intends to negotiate redundancy packages immediately, while further engaging with the Swindon Task Force to mitigate any impact this might have on the wider Wiltshire area.
Honda UK Manufacturing Director, Jason Smith, said: “It is with a heavy heart that today we confirm the closure of Honda’s factory in Swindon. We understand the impact this decision has on our associates, suppliers and the wider community. We are committed to continuing to support them throughout the next phases of the consultation process.”
The news comes after it was discovered that Swindon was already preparing to adapt itself for the next generation Civic, which will feature a petrol-electric drivetrain. However, despite installing new equipment to build the hybrid model, as well as making necessary changes to the plant’s layout, it failed in its bid to stay open.
David Hodgetts, managing director of Honda UK, told Auto Express that the inherent issue faced by the Swindon plant was that the only model it produced was the Civic, making it a “single-sourced factory”. Nevertheless, he admitted the closure was still “a big shock” for the workforce.
Hodgetts reiterated the claim that the closure of the plant was “a global decision” and said that while he had not been aware that equipment had already been installed at Swindon to build the new Civic, he could “believe that was the case” due to the time constraints involved.
Brexit not a factor, says MP
Conservative MP for North Swindon, Justin Tomlinson, told Auto Express that the Swindon plant’s closure was totally unrelated to Brexit, with Honda also apparently set to close its Turkish factory where it builds the Civic Saloon.
“This decision has been made because of global trends and is not related to Brexit,” said Tomlinson. “The Turkey factory will also close as all European market production is being consolidated to Japan where the company is based.
“This consolidation is made easier by the new EU-Japan trade deal which will allow Honda to produce [its] cars in Japan and import them into the EU, rather than produce the cars in Europe.
“Honda have told us today that they will be consulting with all staff and there is not expected to be any job losses or change in production until 2021.”
Japan-EU trade deal
On 1 February 2019, a new trade deal between the EU and Japan came into force. The deal will bring an end to the 10 per cent tariff currently applied to Japanese cars imported into the EU, although this change is being introduced gradually over a period of seven years in order to allow European carmakers to prepare.
Honda’s UK Manufacturing Director, Jason Smith, said: “We understand the impact this proposal will have on our associates, wider supplier base and the local community. We are committed to supporting associates to help them through this difficult time.”
Honda UK Manufacturing was founded in 1985 and production at the Swindon engine plant started in 1989. Over the years, Honda has invested a total of around £1.5 billion in the 370-acre site, with models such as the Accord, CR-V and Jazz all being produced there over the years.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, called Honda’s decision a “huge blow” to the UK’s automotive industry, and for Swindon’s “highly skilled and productive workforce”.
Hawes warned the “challenges facing Honda are not unique” and that the global automotive industry was facing “fundamental” changes related to technological, environmental and trade arrangements.
He added: “The UK should be at the forefront of these changes, championing its competitiveness and innovation, rather than having to focus resources on the need to avoid a catastrophic ‘no-deal’ Brexit.”
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