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Honda closing Swindon, UK, plant by 2021

by Ronan Glon

The factory directly employs 3,500 people.

The rumor Honda refused to confirm was true after all. The Japanese automaker has announced it will close the Swindon, England, factory that directly employs about 3,500 people by 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. As a result, we have had to take this difficult decision to consult our workforce on how we might prepare our manufacturing network for the future. This has not been taken lightly and we deeply regret how unsettling today's announcement will be for our people," Katsushi Inoue, the president of Honda's European arm, said in a statement.

Honda explained its Swindon factory manufactures about 150,000 cars annually -- that's 100,000 cars short of its capacity. It only builds the Civic in 2019, including the hot-rodded Type R model sold in America. It has lost three models since the turn of the millennium. Honda stopped building the Accord in Swindon in 2002, it ended Jazz production in 2014, and the last CR-V rolled off the assembly line in 2018. Demand for the Civic remain strong but it's not high enough to justify keeping the factory open, and Honda decided against adding more models to Swindon's roster.

The closure is part of Honda's plan to centralize production in Japan over the coming years. It also announced it will stop building the Civic sedan in Turkey in 2021. The company didn't mention Brexit or falling demand for diesel in its announcement; it blamed Swindon's fate on "unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry" without going into further details.

"We've always seen Brexit as something we'll get through, but these changes globally are something we will have to respond to," Ian Howells, the senior vice president for Honda in Europe, told the BBC in a statement.

Honda hasn't revealed what it will do with the site, which is the only plant it operates in Europe. And, while Swindon employs 3,500 workers, the planned shut-down will send a ripple effect through the supplier chain that feeds the plant. We don't know the exact number of jobs at stake yet, but it's much higher than 3,500.

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