Honda announced it will close its Swindon, U.K., manufacturing plant in 2021 when production ends on the current-generation Civic. All Civic hatchbacks in the U.S., including the Civic Type R, are made at the Swindon factory. Once the Swindon plant closes, Honda may bring production of the Civic hatchback to North America.
A Honda spokesman tells us that the company is “considering adding production of the Civic hatchback in North America, starting from the next-generation model, to serve our customers in the North American market. Since we launched the stylish Civic hatchback in the U.S. in 2016, [it has represented] nearly 20 percent of Civic sales volume . . . So, this would support our efforts to make optimal use of our global production network to meet the needs of our customers.”
The decision comes as Honda evolves its EV strategy. “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 in a statement.
Honda chief executive Takahiro Hachigo said the move was not related to Brexit, the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union (EU). “We had to consider the rise of electrified vehicles, and the different speeds at which electric vehicles will be taken up in North America and Europe,” he told Reuters. “This decision was not informed by Brexit.”
As you may recall, Honda has big plans for electrification. Honda created an EV platform first seen on the Urban EV concept from 2017, a new version of which will be shown at next month’s Geneva Motor Show. Globally, two-thirds of the cars Honda sells will have electrified technology by 2030. That target is 2025 for Europe, Honda announced at the time.
The Swindon factory produces 150,000 cars per year and employs around 3,500 people. Honda made the announcement just a few weeks after Nissan reversed a decision to build the new X-Trail at its Sunderland, U.K., plant. Nissan said, “While we have taken this decision for business reasons, the continued uncertainty around the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future.” Meanwhile, Panasonic and Sony have decided to move their European headquarters from Great Britain to the EU.
The closing of the Swindon plant is part of a larger restructuring for Honda’s manufacturing network. The automaker said it will stop building Civic sedans in Turkey starting in 2021. The plant in Turkey currently makes 38,000 units per year. Honda says its European headquarters will remain in the U.K.