Japanese car maker Honda has confirmed plans to close its Swindon car plant in 2021.
The plant which currently produces the Civic Hatchback and Civic Type R, manufacturers around 150,000 cars per year, and employs 3,500 people.
Established in 1985, it is Honda’s only EU based manufacturing facility.
In an official statement the firm’s Chief Officer for European Regional Operations, Katsushi Inoue said that the decision was driven by the firm’s desire to accelerate its electrification strategy and to refocus activity in regions where it expects to have high production volumes. The firm’s Turkey factory will also close as all European market production is consolidated to Japan where the company is based.
Talking to the BBC, the firm’s senior vice-president for Europe Ian Howells, who has previously warned of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit, denied that the UK’s impending exit from the EU was a factor. Back in September Howells had said that despite Brexit uncertainty Honda was committed to the future of the Swindon plant.
Meanwhile Swindon MPs Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland issued a joint statement expressing surprise and disappointment at the news and pledging to work with Honda, the government and the trade unions to support the workforce.
The pair added that the consolidation has been made easier by the new EU-Japan trade deal which will allow Honda to produce their cars in Japan and import them into the EU without paying tariffs.
Many Japanese firms were originally attracted to the UK by its tariff free access to European markets. However the auto industry trade body SMMT estimates that the reintroduction of tariffs will add up to £1.8bn a year to export costs on cars alone.
The announced closure follows last month’s decision by Nissan not to build its X-Trail at the plant’s Sunderland facility.
The Unite union described the latest news as a “shattering body blow” for UK manufacturing and blamed Brexit uncertainty for the decision. “The car industry in the UK over the last two decades has been the jewel in the crown for the manufacturing sector – and now it has been brought low by the chaotic Brexit uncertainty created by the rigid approach adopted by prime minister Theresa May” said Unite’s national officer for the automotive sector Des Quinn.