Honda confirms closure of production plant in UK

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Photo by Honda Final checks of a Honda Civic on the Swindon assembly line

Honda has joined other key carmakers to announce, in recent months, a restructuring bid which impacts their UK operations.

The Japanese car manufacturer announced 19 Feb that it is closing down its production plant in Swindon, UK by 2021, at the end of the current model’s lifecycle.

The plant, which boasts a workforce of nearly 3500, manufactures the Civic five-door hatchback for the European and US markets, producing some 150,000 cars per year.

Opened in 1986, the HUM facility incorporates full vehicle production capabilities, including press, weld (BIW), and paint. The plant further features two assembly lines producing the Honda Civic five-door hatchback. The Honda CR-V crossover, which was produced in Swindon, is now assembled in the United States. In addition, the plant has an engine production facility, including a foundry for engine block/header casting, and a dedicated plastics production division.

The plant was already scheduled to close for six days in April in order to assess how any border/customers disruption would affect assembly operations. In addition, there are plans to front-load production to help maintain dealer inventories.

The move to shut down the plant, said Honda, is part of its strategy to shift focus on electric vehicles, partly to meet stringent emissions standards.

The reorganisation will also involve Honda’s automobile operations in Turkey, which produces 38,000 units per year.

The Turkish production unit will cease manufacturing the current Civic sedan model in 2021.

Honda officials have denied links between the plant closure and the UK’s departure from the European Union by the end of next month.

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

According to Howell, the automaker will focus its investments on China, the US and Japan.  

The UK has long been a Japanese hub for European auto production, with Honda, Nissan and Toyota owning three of the country’s six largest car-making factories. However, that has quickly unravelled, with Nissan this month reneging on plans to build the X-Trail SUV in Sunderland -- partly due to the unresolved status of EU-UK trade after Brexit.Honda’s European HQ will continue to be located in the UK. 

And the UK auto industry had already been battling a Brexit-related slowdown, potential tariffs and supply bottlenecks ahead of the exit from the EU on 29 March. UK lawmakers have yet to find a solution to avert a no-deal split from the EU.

Ford Motor announced thousands of job cuts in Europe last month and said a hard Brexit would be "catastrophic" for the UK auto industry and its own engine production facilities in the country. Jaguar Land Rover, Britain's biggest automaker, said in January it would scrap 4,500 positions in response to a sales slowdown blamed on reasons including Brexit. PSA Group’s Vauxhall Ellesmere Port site is in doubt as it mulls plans for the next Astra.

As the political impasse over Brexit drags on, investments in the British automotive industry nearly halved last year to £589m (€674m), the lowest since the global financial crisis, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers.

PNE sister publications Automotive News Europe and Plastic & Rubber World contributed to this article.

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