Honda Announces Closure of Sole UK Plant

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
honda announces closure of sole uk plant

The sole production site of the Honda Civic Hatchback and Type R will close by the end of 2021, Honda told UK employees on Tuesday.

Honda’s Swindon facility, built on the site of a former WW2 aircraft factory, began building Accords for the UK and European markets in 1992, adding the popular Civic to the mix two years later. Amid a turbulent time for trade and auto sales, Honda plans to shutter the facility, throwing 3,500 employees out of work and leaving the future of the Civic Hatch and its variants in question.

While business operations will continue at Swindon, auto assembly will not. A communiqué released Tuesday morning points to a global restructuring of Honda’s production base and regional sales concerns as the reason for the closure, instead of worry over Brexit.

“This restructure comes as Honda accelerates its commitment to electrified cars, in response to the unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry,” the automaker stated. “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.”

Certainly, the possibility of profit-sapping tariffs (and not just those levied by the EU) could be weighing on the minds of Honda execs, but it’s just one slice of a complex pie. As mentioned yesterday, the EU and Japan now have a free trade pact, making export from Honda’s homeland a more enticing prospect.

“This is not a Brexit-related issue for us, it’s being made on the global-related changes I’ve spoken about,” Ian Howells, senior vice-president of Honda in Europe, told the BBC.

It’s worth fleshing out the last few words in Honda’s previous statement. From a recent high of 311,801 sales in 2007, Honda’s European volume fell to 136,191 vehicles in 2018. Swindon cranks out about 150,000 vehicles a year, with North America receiving its Civic Hatch from this locale.

“It has to be in a marketplace of a size for Honda, where it makes investment worthwhile,” Howells said of the company’s assembly sites.

Honda also announced the closure of its Turkey assembly operations by 2021, leaving its business operations in that country alive.

“This [decision] has not been taken lightly and we deeply regret how unsettling today’s announcement will be for our people,” said Katsushi Inoue, head of Honda’s European business.

Honda currently builds Civic sedans and coupes in American and Canadian plants. In the future, the region could receive Civic imports from Japan, though it’s possible hatch models could be added to the current domestic production mix.

[Image: Honda]

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