Breaking news: Honda set to announce closure of Swindon plant with 3,500 job losses

February 18, 2019

Japanese car giant Honda is understood to be preparing to announce the closure of its massive Swindon plant with the loss of all 3,500 jobs – dealing a devastating blow to the town’s economy and putting it firmly at the heart of the ongoing row over the impact of Brexit on British manufacturing.

Reports this afternoon said that the car maker will reveal its plan tomorrow morning, with a full shut down of the plant, which makes the Honda Civic car and a range of engines, in 2022. 

Honda has declined to comment on the reports, which were first broadcast earlier this afternoon by Sky News

North Swindon Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson, who voted for Brexit, said the closure was unrelated to the UK leaving the EU.

He told the BBC he had spoken to Honda, which confirmed it was consulting with “all staff”.

He added: “There is not expected to be any job losses, or changes in production until 2021.”

He tweeted that, along with South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, he had spoken to the Business Secretary Greg Clark and Honda and they were clear this is based on global trends and not Brexit as all European market production will consolidate in Japan in 2021

Car manufacturers have been hit by a combination of factors including a sales slowdown in China and a sharp decline in the market for diesel vehicles.  

While having a major impact on the town’s economy – Honda is its largest private sector employer – the closure will also hit supplier businesses, a number of which are based in and around Swindon.

Motor industry experts say for every job in a car plant at least another four are reliant on it through its supply chain and other related sectors such as catering and logistics. 

The plant, which started making cars in 1992, last year produced 160,000 Civics – some 90% of them for export to the EU and US. 

Last month Honda said it planned to halt production at the plant for six days in April to stockpile components and help it overcome border disruption after the UK leaves the EU.

The carmaker has been among the most vocal manufacturers to warn that their UK factories, which rely on the constant delivery of parts to enter production cycles, would be severely damaged if Britain leaves the EU without a trade deal, forcing the need for customs checks at borders. 

Closing the Swindon plant and moving production back to Japan would guarantee tariff-free exports to the EU, industry experts said. According to the Sky News report, Honda will retain its European adminstrative headquarters near Bracknell. The Swindon plant is its only car and engine manufacturing site in Europe. 

Two years ago Honda senior vice-president Ian Howells broke the firms traditionally tight-lipped approach to commenting in public on politcal matters by warning against leaving the EU customs union at a car industry summit.

Speaking at a summit staged by UK car industry group SMMT, he said: “We have just one hour of supply of parts at the side of the line, and half a day in local warehouses.

“From that description of the flow of goods you can see how new customs rules would harm our ability to produce cars.” 

Honda's silence over any announcement tomorrow has not prevented some commentators laying the blame for the closure, if it happens, firmly at the door of the vote to leave the EU on March 29. 

The Unite union said, if confirmed, the closure would be a “shattering body blow” to UK manufacturing.

National officer for the automotive sector, Des Quinn, said: “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.

“We will be doing everything we can in the coming days and weeks to support our members at this grave time for them, their families and the UK economy.

“This will also affect thousands of jobs in the extensive supply chain across the country.”

And Green South West MEP Molly Scott Cato added: “If true, this news represents a terrible day for the 3,500 workers at the Swindon plant and their families and my thoughts are with them at this worrying time. Concerns about businesses leaving the UK in the event of Brexit were expressed before the referendum and since the Brexit result. Japanese manufacturing businesses have been quite clear about the risk to their business model from leaving the customs union. But a decision to close a state-of-the-art factory with the sunk costs it represents is still a shocking one.

“This is the day that will be remembered as the day project fear became Brexit reality, the day when the true scale of the social and economic costs of leaving the EU hit hard in the South West. A majority in Swindon voted to leave the EU based on promises that their jobs were safe. Now that we know what Brexit means in reality they, and we all, have a right to think again.



Comments are closed.


Reach tens of thousands of senior business people across Swindon & Wiltshire for just £70 a month. Email for more information.