February 19, 2019

Honda is closing its only British factory, wiping out 3,500 jobs

Honda has just dealt the United Kingdom's auto industry a huge blow.

The Japanese carmaker said Tuesday that it will shut down a major manufacturing plant in the English town of Swindon that employs 3,500 people.

Honda has made more than 3 million cars in Swindon since its plant there opened three decades ago. The factory currently makes the Honda Civic, and is capable of producing as many as 150,000 of the cars a year. It will close in 2021 under the plan Honda announced Tuesday.

Swindon is the Japanese company's only car plant in the European Union. Vehicles made in the factory are exported to more than 70 countries.

The restructuring will also involve Honda's operations in Turkey, which currently produce 38,000 Civic sedans per year. That will cease in 2021.

"In light of the unprecedented changes that are affecting our industry, it is vital that we accelerate our electrification strategy and restructure our global operations accordingly," Honda Motor Europe President Katsushi Inoue said in a statement.

The Honda statement made no mention of Brexit, but the uncertainty concerning Britain's future trading relationship with its biggest export market is one of the big clouds hanging over the UK auto industry.

Britain is set to leave the European Union in less than 40 days, but the details of what will happen after that are still uncertain. Car company executives have warned that leaving the bloc without a deal to protect trade would be devastating for the auto industry in the country.

Japan's Nissan earlier this month scrapped plans to build its new X-Trail SUV at its factory in the English city of Sunderland. It cited uncertainty over Brexit as one reason for the decision.

Other carmakers have announced plans to shut down their factories for a period of time immediately after Brexit in order to avoid disruption.

BMW said it would close its Mini factory in England for one month of maintenance immediately after Brexit because it can't be sure of getting the parts it needs if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal.

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