By on February 19, 2019

Image: 2017 Honda Civic Type R

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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29 Comments on “Honda Announces Closure of Sole UK Plant...”


  • avatar
    jatz

    Europeans are too frivolous and their driving needs too discretionary to have ever embraced Honda.

    A little people, a silly people.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I’m trying to think of any market in the world where Honda is really doing well and making a profit on cars besides the US. They are a very small player in Europe, a weak 2nd in Japan mostly selling the low profit Kei cars, barely outsell Buick in China, and upscale Acura is weak or non-existent all over the world. Even in motorcycles, I believe Harley and BMW outsell Honda in the “heavy” bike market where most of the profits are. I think American’s over-rate Honda because of the US popularity of the Accord and CR-V, but Honda really isn’t very strong anywhere else so not surprising they need to shut down some plants.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Their American-market cars traditionally offer the fun of a Mazda with the reliability of a Toyota for zero price premium over either, which is awfully hard to beat. As a small company they seem to have picked one market to really focus on, and we’re it. Nice if you’re us. :-)

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “From a recent high of 311,801 sales in 2007, Honda’s European volume fell to 136,191 vehicles in 2018.”

    Bingo.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Maybe they could just close down their design studios…jeez – look at that thing…

  • avatar
    Matt51

    Honda does a very good job of employing Americans – I wish them well.

  • avatar
    The Comedian

    Closing Swindon? Any chance that they are moving to Slough?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Ford declares they are thinking of pulling manufacturing out of UK due to Brexit, and clearly it is because they are a failed company and this is just a convenient excuse – per the B&B.

    Honda shuts down their only UK plant because of Brexit, with Honda of Europe sales collapsing about 60% in the last decade and — well maybe they’ll build them somewhere else.

    Ahhh, the B&B. They live in their own echo chamber.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      I’m no fan of the imminent disaster that is Brexit (the word is bound to appear in the thesaurus as a synonym for “gross stupidity”), but it is a fact that both Ford and Honda are losing sales volume and market share in Europe, so something had to give.

      I don’t believe it is coincidental that both companies are looking to address overcapacity issues by cutting production in the UK, and not in the EU27 countries. Coming on the heels of Nissan’s announcement re Sunderland, it’s all bad news for the UK – which is what Brexit is all about.

      • 0 avatar
        James Charles

        ext,
        The former Eastern Bloc auto producers have also played a role with the transplanting of Asian factories producing good quality vehicles.

        Also, outside of the US Honda tries to pass itself off as a producer of premium quality vehicles. This approach is most successful in Asia.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          “Also, outside of the US Honda tries to pass itself off as a producer of premium quality vehicles. This approach is most successful in Asia.”

          Really?

          In Japan, Honda mostly sells small vehicles.

          In China, they aren’t seen any different from Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      Honda specifically says that this decision has nothing to do with Brexit, and you complain that *other* people live in an echo chamber.

      • 0 avatar
        probert

        Sure they said it – gotta be true. After Brexit, The UK will be left with 5 fish and chip stands and Burberrys billboard. Wow – a country actually more stupid than the US – congrats – I guess….

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        Of course they say that: saying f-all about the most incendiary political question in the UK could only lose them sales.

        But of course it’s probably got everything to do with Brexit. The UK alone doesn’t buy enough cars to justify that factory, and they won’t sell many elsewhere if the tariff to send those cars to the continent goes from 0% to 25%.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    James Charles makes a good point. Hungary, Poland etc are the EUs Mexico.

    Brexit? Maybe.

    But I honestly see this as a continuation in automobiles where a lot of other consumer goods have gone in Europe , and that is into regression. I am no German but I did live as an immigrant there for 5 years (not a company sponsored expat situation), and IMHO the economic situation in Europe is pretty dire. Yes some parts of Europe, mainly the northern states like Germany, Netherlands, maybe Poland, Norway etc are doing OK at best. Treading water. Decent paying opportunities but in nations that still tax heavily yet are more free market than many others.

    Then you have some very populated places like France, Italy, and Spain that are absolute train wrecks. Even higher living costs, worse public infrastructure, and perverse incentives that result in few job opportunities, little investment, and citizens that don’t care to work because they’ll never get ahead and their tax burden if they did work would take almost everything.

    So my point is this… proctor and gamble alrwady a few years ago has transitioned many parts of Europe into markets where they sell them now the same products they offer in 3rd world or developing nations like India or Brazil. And have backed away from selling 1st world products we see in the USA or Germany.

    If Brazilians and Indians can’t afford first world automobiles much of Europe now cannot either. And the prospects that the markets will turn around there are grim. Add in Honda is a bit player in Europe and here we are.

    Doesn’t surprise me in the least. They’re looking at Germans or Dutch (maybe if they want to pay the taxes) can afford the popular German cars. Others might find a Skoda solid. And the rest are reverting back to mopeds or the bus. There is no place for Honda. I mean if even General Motors throws in the towel with their very long and established European operations, why would Honda be able to make it work?

    • 0 avatar
      multicam

      This is why I don’t think Brexit is so stupid as it many here take it for granted to be. Sure, it’ll hurt now and even in the mid-term but in the long run they’re bailing out of a sinking ship. Having said that, a lot of the things you mentioned apply to Britain as well.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    So much “winning” for Brexiteers!

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Honda is not the only co closing plants around the world. It’s a sign of the times.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ford-motor-southamerica-heavytruck/ford-to-close-oldest-brazil-plant-exit-south-america-truck-biz-idUSKCN1Q82EB

  • avatar
    lon888

    A sad loss for the UK. My last Honda was a 2005 Civic Si built there. And yes, it had the typical Honda high reliability and build quality. Can’t wait to get rid of my GTI and starting driving reliable cars again…


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