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Honda confirms Swindon plant closure

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HondaHondaCar maker Honda has confirmed its 3,500-employee Swindon plant by 2021, saying that it could not identify any 'viable alternatives' following a period of consultation.

The Japanese firm announced its intention yesterday (Monday) saying the closure would coincide with the end of its current product lifecycle.

The South Marston plant produces 150,000 Honda Civics every year, although it has capacity for 250,000. It is thought 10,000 people are employed regionally in the firm's supply chain.

In a statement, the company said: "Honda of the UK Manufacturing has today informed associates (employees) that plans to close its Swindon vehicle manufacturing plant, at the end of the current model’s production lifecycle, in 2021, have been confirmed. The plant currently employs circa 3,500 associates.

"Following a meaningful and robust consultation process, which included contributions from collective consultation groups, the UK government and external consultants engaged by UNITE, Honda has reached the conclusion that no viable alternatives to the proposed closure of the Swindon plant have been identified.

"The decision to close the plant is part of Honda’s broader global strategy in response to changes to the automotive industry.

"As previously communicated in February, Honda is accelerating its electrification plans, and as a, result resources, capabilities and production systems for electrified vehicles will be focused in regions with a high volume of customer demand.

"This concludes the first phase of the collective consultation process. The second phase - which includes agreeing associate redundancy packages and identifying the impact on individual roles up until production ceases in 2021 – will begin immediately.

"Honda will also intensify its engagement with the Swindon Task Force set up by Secretary of State Greg Clark, in order to work with government and a broad range of stakeholders to mitigate the impact of this decision on the wider community."

Honda UK Manufacturing director, Jason Smith, said: "It is with a heavy heart that today we confirm the closure of Honda’s factory in Swindon.

"We understand the impact this decision has on our associates, suppliers and the wider community.

"We are committed to continuing to support them throughout the next phases of the consultation process."

The news was met with resignation by the business community and politicians, and anger by the union Unite, who called the move a betrayal of workers' loyalty.

Ian Larrard, director of Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative at Business West, said: “We are very saddened to hear from Honda today of its formal intention to close its Swindon plant.

“Honda Swindon has been an integral part of the town and the region for decades and this is a significant loss for both Honda workers and the wider Honda supply chain.

“As the largest business group in the region, we will now work with focus and energy on the Government’s Honda task force to respond with ongoing efforts to ensure that as many staff and companies are helped in order to minimise any negative economic impact.

“We remain convinced of Swindon’s great strengths as a well-connected, resilient and business-friendly town, and we have already been contacted by many companies from the region looking to help recruit from those affected from the Honda workforce.

"Although this is a sad day, the town should be optimistic about its future.”

Paddy Bradley Director of the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership said: "The announcement by Honda Manufacturing UK Ltd confirming that it will be closing its site and operations in Swindon in 2021 is disappointing news for the community of Swindon and surrounding areas.

"As part of the Government-led Honda Task Force, we have been working hard to persuade Honda to stay but following a consultation process, the company has made the decision to proceed with its plans to leave Swindon.

"Since Honda’s announcement in February, SWLEP has been working closely alongside Government, Swindon Borough Council and local partners to help deliver a plan of support for employees and businesses in the area.

"Swindon has a growing, vibrant economy and we are committed to working with local businesses, partners and Government to ensure the economic shock of this announcement is minimised.

"Honda’s South Marston site is perfectly suited to an advanced engineering manufacturing plant, providing high value jobs. Honda’s workforce is well trained, highly qualified and will be a skilled workforce in high demand.”

And South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said: "I am frustrated and concerned following the announcement made by Honda this week, confirming that the Swindon plant will close in 2021.

"I firmly believe that Honda has made the wrong decision because the quality of the product and the quality of the workforce we have in Swindon is world-beating.

"Honda is a company who are supposed to be ambitious about a world-share of the market, but by closing the Swindon plant, they are pulling out of a major part of that market."