Honda to Shut Plant in Britain, Imperiling 3,500 Jobs

A Honda W-RV on display in 2017. Photo: Jengtingchen / Wikimedia Commons
A Honda W-RV on display in 2017. Photo: Jengtingchen / Wikimedia Commons

TOKYO — Honda said Tuesday it plans to close its car factory in western England in 2021, imperiling 3,500 jobs in a fresh blow to the British economy as it faces its March 29 exit from the European Union.

The Japanese automaker announced the decision at a news conference in Tokyo, where Honda’s president and CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, told reporters the decision was based on what made most sense for its global competitiveness in light of the need to accelerate its production of electric vehicles.

Brexit was not the main factor behind the decision, he insisted.

“We still don’t know what sort of changes Brexit will bring at this point,” he said. “We have to wait until we have a better idea about the situation.”

Hachigo said the company immediately would begin discussions with affected workers at the factory in Swindon.

“I very much regret this,” he said, adding that “this was the best choice the circumstances.”

Honda makes its popular Civic model at the factory, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of London, with an output of 150,000 cars per year. Its restructuring is aimed at adjusting its operations to reflect stronger demand in Asia and North America, Hachigo said.

The next model of Civic to be sold in Britain will be exported from Japan, the company said.

The company said it will also adjust its operations in Turkey, where it makes 38,000 Civic sedans a year. It said it would continue operating there and hold a “constructive dialogue” with local stakeholders.

British businesses are issuing increasingly urgent warnings about the damage being done by the uncertainty around Brexit. The UK has yet to seal a deal laying out the divorce terms and establishing what trade rules will apply after Brexit.

In presenting the restructuring plan, Hachigo stressed that Honda was striving to adjust to a fast changing global industry.

“We have to move more quickly,” he said.

Story: Kaori Hitomi