HONDA has announced that it will close its factory in Swindon, putting 3,500 jobs at risk.
The manufacturer has blamed a change of direction for the firm as it moves to focus on electric vehicles, following an industry-wide drop in diesel car sales.
Swindon is the firm’s only factory in the EU, where it produces 100,000 Civic cars, but it doesn’t blame Brexit for the closure.
The company plans to shut down the plant in 2021 but it will keep its European headquarters in Bracknell in Berkshire, as well as its Formula One racing team operations in the UK.
A spokesperson for Honda 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.”
Business Secretary Greg Clark described the car makers decision as “deeply disappointing”.
He said: “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.”
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson, said Honda’s decision to close its Swindon plant is based on “global trends and not Brexit”.
He tweeted: “Robert Buckland and I have already spoken to the Business Secretary and Honda.
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“They are clear this is based on global trends and not Brexit as all European market production will consolidate in Japan in 2021.”
Last week, Honda said it would be axing around 500 temporary jobs at the factory but fierce rumours circulating yesterday suggested more redundancies were on the table.
One member of staff who found out about the closure today said he was “devastated”.
Honda has manufactured vehicles in Swindon for more than 30 years, and said last year that it was committed to UK-based production regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations.
Martin Lane, managing editor of comparison website Money.co.uk, slammed the move as “distressing” for Honda employees and their families.
He added: “This will have a huge impact on individuals, but also the local area as a whole. Those who fear they could lose their jobs should hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
“Sadly this is a hard blow to Britain’s car industry, and I doubt it will be the end of the redundancies this year.”
Earlier this year, Jaguar Land Rover and Ford announced plans to cut thousands of jobs, blaming uncertainty surrounding Brexit and a lack of demand for diesel vehicles.
Energy supplier nPower also plans to axe 900 jobs this year due to the energy price cap.
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