Honda CEO says decision to end production in Britain not Brexit-related

Dwayne Harmon
February 20, 2019

Japanese vehicle giant Honda is expected to announce the shutdown of its plant in south west England in 2022, putting 3,500 jobs at risk, media reports said Monday.

An official announcement on the future of the Swindon vehicle plant is expected to be made to the media tomorrow (Tuesday 19 February).

"This reduction in volume will not have any impact on our permanent resource levels, and is in line with our current production plans", the company said. And, while Swindon employs 3,500 workers, the planned shut-down will send a ripple effect through the supplier chain that feeds the plant.

Honda has been keen to emphasise, however, the closure is strictly related to the challenges facing the global auto manufacturing business and that it is seeking to consolidate production in its home country of Japan.

Honda makes its popular Civic model at the factory, 115 kilometres west of London, with an output of 150,000 cars per year.

Honda said under the proposed restructure, the current role of its United Kingdom manufacturing business (HUM) as a global manufacturing hub may no longer be viable.

"The bosses in Japan have said it's nothing to do with Brexit".

Representatives for Honda also said that, under this proposed restructure, the current role of its United Kingdom manufacturing business as a global manufacturing epicenter might not be viable any longer. Honda also plans to cease production in Turkey, where the company makes the Civic sedan, he said.

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A source at the plant said it was awaiting official confirmation from Honda and had not been told anything about what it means for production in Merthyr.

Unlike other automakers, Honda said the closure has nothing to do with Brexit.

The Japanese company made 160,000 Honda Civics in Swindon a year ago, of which some 90% were exported to the EU.

He said it was "very regrettable" to have to close the plant but said it was the "best choice" given the need to reduce production capacity and reform its global facilities.

"This is a devastating decision for Swindon and the United Kingdom", he said.

"Workers at Honda must not pay the price for the Prime Minister playing to the hardliners in her party and we urge Honda to sit down urgently with Unite to discuss a way forward for the plant". Although it was reported to be business-based decision by Honda, online commentators linked the expected shut-down to Brexit uncertainty. Once upon a time it was producing 230,000 cars a year, with Accords, Jazzes, CR-Vs and Civics all being built there.

Honda said it was unable to make any comment on the speculation.

The company is expected to relocate production to Japan, which can guarantee tariff-free exports to the European Union as the result of a trade deal signed between the two parties recently.

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