It’s not just vehicle manufacturing in Australia that has felt the strain in recent years, with Honda officially announcing this morning it will close its UK plant in the English town of Swindon.
While claiming the closure has ‘nothing to do with Brexit’, chief executive Takahiro Hachigo did confirm 3500 jobs would be lost. It’s the first time Honda has closed an overseas manufacturing operation, hinting at a tough period not just for the company itself, but perhaps auto manufacturing globally over the next few years.
“Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd. has today informed employees of its proposal to close its Swindon vehicle manufacturing plant in the UK in 2021, at the end of the current model’s production lifecycle,” his statement said.
The Swindon plant churns out 160,000 Civics each year, and the plant is Honda’s only site in the European Union. According to a BBC report, Ian Howells, senior vice-president for Honda in Europe, said: “we’re seeing unprecedented change in the industry on a global scale. We have to move very swiftly to electrification of our vehicles because of demand of our customers and legislation”.
From the moment whispers first started the closure was likely to happen, speculation centred around the numerous Brexit issues as the reason, but Honda has been adamant in denying this. Still, workers spoke to media outside the plant, criticising the government’s inability to come to a working Brexit agreement.
Honda has been keen to emphasise, however, the closure is strictly related to the challenges facing the global car manufacturing business and that it is seeking to consolidate production in its home country of Japan. In fact, the Honda statement blamed changing conditions in the global market and reinforced a desire to prepare its manufacturing network for the future.
Honda also announced it will close a production facility in Turkey, which employs more than 1000 workers and produces almost 40,000 vehicles every year. The Honda plant closure in Swindon is a hammer blow for manufacturing in England and comes not long after Nissan announced it would cease X-Trail production out of Sunderland.