Honda shut Swindon plant, plans to close its Swindon factory in 2021.
The Japanese car manufacturer, which is the UK’s fifth biggest, said 3,500 jobs will be lost when the plant shuts at the end of the current model’s production lifecycle.
The plant currently produces 150,000 cars a year. It was reported that staff had been sent home following Tuesday’s announcement.
A statement said: “This proposal comes as Honda accelerates its commitment to electrified cars, in response to the unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry.
“The significant challenges of electrification will see Honda revise its global manufacturing operations, and focus activity in regions where it expects to have high production volumes.”
Honda said under the proposed restructure, the current role of its UK manufacturing business (HUM) as a global manufacturing hub may no longer be viable.
The closure is the first in the manufacturer’s 71-year history.
There was no mention of Brexit in Honda’s statement. The company said “consultation activity will begin today with potentially affected employees.”
Ian Howells, senior vice-president for Honda in Europe, told the BBC: “We’re seeing unprecedented change in the industry on a global scale. We have to move very swiftly to electrification of our vehicles because of demand of our customers and legislation.
“This is not a Brexit-related issue for us, it’s being made on the global-related changes I’ve spoken about.
“We’ve always seen Brexit as something we’ll get through, but these changes globally are something we will have to respond to. We deeply regret the impact it will have on the Swindon community.
“In terms of where we are in our investment in the UK, then I’m afraid we are in a position where our investment and our focus needs to go somewhere else. It can’t be in the UK.
“And this is really a challenge for us on a global basis and not decisions being made locally by either ourselves, or equally by the UK Government.”
Honda’s European HQ will remain in the UK.
Local MPs Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland said they will be doing “everything to support the hard-working, loyal and skilled workers at Honda and the supply chain through the Gov taskforce as we deal with this devastating news.”
Unite national officer for the automotive sector Des Quinn said: “We acknowledge the global challenges that Honda has outlined in its statement, but we don’t accept that this plant, with its highly skilled and dedicated workforce, does not have a viable future.
“We are now entering a period of meaningful consultations with the management to examine in detail the business case put forward by the company.
“We will leave no stone unturned to keep this plant going and its workforce in employment.
“While Brexit is not mentioned by the company as a reason for the announcement, we believe that the uncertainty that the Tory government has created by its inept and rigid handling of the Brexit negotiations lurks in the background.
“If the government had delivered a strong and stable Brexit that protected the economy and jobs, we may well have been in a very different position today.
“We have met the company this morning and will be meeting representatives of the workforce at what is an extremely worrying time for our members and their families.
“The impact of any closure on the Wiltshire economy and more widely throughout the UK supply chain can’t be underestimated – it would be devastating. That’s why Unite will be making every effort to avoid that catastrophic outcome.”
Unite Swindon regional officer Alan Tomala told Sky News: “It’s absolutely devastating news, it’s what we’ve expected after yesterday’s leak in the press.
“You’ve heard it before I have, once we’ve now had it confirmed we’ll be speaking to our representatives on site.
“Honda is not just one of the biggest employers in Swindon, it’s one of the biggest employers in the south west.
“Let’s not forget the 3,500 jobs at risk in the plant, for every job lost in the plant you could have maybe two or three jobs lost in the supply chain and local economy, so it’s extremely devastating news.
“First of all, we need to understand from the employer as to the reasons why and the rationale behind the decisions in order to understand what we need to do next.”
Business Secretary Greg Clark he will convene a taskforce in Swindon to ensure employees find new jobs.
He said: “Honda have announced, as part of a global restructuring, plans to close their Swindon plant in 2021; and instead manufacture and export the new Civic model into Europe from Japan. As Honda have said, this is a commercial decision based on unprecedented changes in the global market. Regardless, this is a devastating decision for Swindon and the UK.
“This news is a particularly bitter blow to the thousands of skilled and dedicated staff who work at the factory, their families and all of those employed in the supply chain.
“I will convene a taskforce in Swindon with local MPs, civic and business leaders as well as trade union representatives to ensure that the skills and expertise of the workforce is retained, and these highly valued employees move into new skilled employment.
“The automotive industry is undergoing a rapid transition to new technology. The UK is one of the leaders in the development of these technologies and so it is deeply disappointing that this decision has been taken now.”
Honda said it will also close its factory in Turkey, where it employs 1,100 people.
Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Phil Smith, chief executive of Business West and Paul Britton, chief executive of Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, said: “The automotive industry is a bellwether for UK manufacturing, and has a disproportionate impact on many of our business communities and on our export strength.