Car giant Honda has confirmed plans to shut its factory in Swindon in 2021 with the loss of 3,500 jobs.
The Japanese firm told workers it proposed to close the vehicle manufacturing plant at the end of the current model’s production lifecycle.
The plant currently produces 150,000 cars a year.
A statement 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.”
Honda said under the proposed restructure, the current role of its UK manufacturing business (HUM) as a global manufacturing hub may no longer be viable.
There was no mention of Brexit in Honda’s statement.
Consultation with the Unite union will begin today, and Honda said it will be working closely with its workforce over the months ahead.
Katsushi Inoue, Honda’s chief officer for European regional operations and president, Honda Motor Europe, said: “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.”
HUM director Jason Smith said: “We understand the impact this proposal will have on our associates, wider supplier base and the local community. We are committed to supporting associates to help them through this difficult time.”
Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Honda have announced, as part of a global restructuring, plans to close their Swindon plant in 2021; and instead manufacture and export the new Civic model into Europe from Japan. As Honda have said, this is a commercial decision based on unprecedented changes in the global market. Regardless, this is a devastating decision for Swindon and the UK.
“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.
“The automotive industry is undergoing a rapid transition to new technology. The UK is one of the leaders in the development of these technologies and so it is deeply disappointing that this decision has been taken now.”
Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Phil Smith, chief executive of Business West and Paul Britton, chief executive of Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, said: “The automotive industry is a bellwether for UK manufacturing, and has a disproportionate impact on many of our business communities and on our export strength.
“The planned closure of the Swindon plant will have a major impact across the area, affecting not only many employees on site but also firms and staff across the supply chain.
“Given the size of the operation, there will be a wide and diverse network of regional suppliers that will now be hugely concerned about their future business prospects.
“Employers, government and local authorities must do all they can to deliver tangible assistance and guidance for the people and communities that will be affected by an announcement of this scale.
“This development highlights the importance of maintaining and attracting investment in local economies.
“While the automotive industry in general is going through a period of transition, and a number of global factors will have played a major part in a decision of this size, the ongoing Brexit uncertainty and looming threat of no deal is one factor that should have been resolved a long time ago.”
Unite national officer for the automotive sector Des Quinn said: “We acknowledge the global challenges that Honda has outlined in its statement, but we don’t accept that this plant, with its highly skilled and dedicated workforce, does not have a viable future.
“We are now entering a period of meaningful consultations with the management to examine in detail the business case put forward by the company.
“We will leave no stone unturned to keep this plant going and its workforce in employment.
“While Brexit is not mentioned by the company as a reason for the announcement, we believe that the uncertainty that the Tory Government has created by its inept and rigid handling of the Brexit negotiations lurks in the background.
“If the Government had delivered a strong and stable Brexit that protected the economy and jobs, we may well have been in a very different position today.
“We have met the company this morning and will be meeting representatives of the workforce at what is an extremely worrying time for our members and their families.
“The impact of any closure on the Wiltshire economy and more widely throughout the UK supply chain can’t be underestimated – it would be devastating. That’s why Unite will be making every effort to avoid that catastrophic outcome.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it was a “devastating blow” for workers and UK manufacturing.
“The Prime Minister’s refusal to take no-deal off the table is putting thousands of jobs in jeopardy. She must end this crippling Brexit uncertainty by extending Article 50 and dropping her destructive red lines.
“Workers at Honda must not pay the price for the Prime Minister playing to the hardliners in her party and we urge Honda to sit down urgently with Unite to discuss a way forward for the plant.”
Rosie Rogers, Transport Campaigner at Greenpeace UK said: “This is a real tragedy for the thousands of workers whose skills we need to build the cleaner, greener cars we’ll all be driving in the future.
“As Honda says we’re seeing a massive shift to electric vehicles, which we need to tackle our climate emergency.
“To the Government’s shame they say the right thing but still haven’t woken up to the pace of change, and British workers are paying the price.
“Instead slowcoaches like Transport Secretary Chris Grayling have kept us hooked on polluting diesel.”
Rebecca Long Bailey, shadow business secretary, said: “This is devastating news, first and foremost for Honda employees and their families, but also for the jobs across the supply chain and the impact on the local economy in Swindon.
“This Government has failed to create an environment of business confidence. The Tories’ austerity programme has failed workers and businesses, and they continue to show a total lack of vision or plans for investment in our future.
“With Honda saying Brexit was not a factor, this Tory Government shoulders yet more responsibility for failing to create an environment of business confidence. Businesses have lost faith in the Government’s austerity programme and total lack of vision or investment for our future.”