Honda urged to rethink Swindon plant closure with 3500 jobs under threat

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Honda has announced it is closing its factory in Swindon putting 3,500 workers out of jobs.

Honda makes its popular Civic model at the factory in Swindon, 115km west of London, with an output of 150,000 cars per year. "The timing of this announcement is based on decisions regarding the production location of the next-gen Civic", Honda spokeswoman Jessica Pawl wrote in an email.

The factory employs 3,500 workers, but at least as many work for companies across the country which supply Honda with parts and services. The possibility is consistent with the language Honda used in its Swindon closure announcement, in which the company said it plans to "focus activity in regions where it expects to have high production volumes". Previous tariffs that applied to cars made in Japan for the EU will be scrapped by the end of this year; with the United Kingdom set to have left by then, the financial benefit for European sales to having a factory here is reduced. In presenting the restructuring plan, Hachigo stressed that Honda was striving to adjust to a fast changing global industry.

At the time, Honda said it would make the United Kingdom its production hub for the Civic, with the model being exported to more than 70 countries around the world, including North America and Canada. Honda also plans to cease production in Turkey, where the company makes the Civic sedan, he said. Instead, the production will go to Japan.

Senior vice-president of Honda Europe Ian Howells said a year ago that if Britain left the European Union without a deal it would cost the company tens of millions of pounds, but added that it was nonetheless preparing for such an outcome.

Swindon serves as Honda's European hub.

Analysts say that while Brexit was nearly certainly a factor for Honda, other reasons were likely to have played a part, including a massive EU-Japan free-trade agreement recently signed and the wider struggles of the vehicle industry.

There was no mention of Brexit in the statement.

Honda said it would not be providing any comment on the "speculation".

"In light of the unprecedented changes that are affecting our industry, it is vital that we accelerate our electrification strategy and restructure our global operations accordingly", said Katsushi Inoue, chief officer for European regional operations at Honda and president of Honda Motor Europe. Regardless, this is a devastating decision for Swindon and the UK.

Earlier this month, Japan's Nissan announced that it would not build a new SUV at its plant in Sunderland, England, as previously planned.

The recently agreed EU-Japan trade agreement means tariffs on cars from Japan to the continent will be eliminated, while Britain is struggling to make progress on talks over post-Brexit trade relations with Tokyo.

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