The news that Honda is set to close its Swindon manufacturing plant in 2021 is a major shock, and a huge blow. To the UK car industry. To Swindon. And, most importantly, to the 3500 workers set to lose their jobs – and the thousands of others who work at firms that supply and service it.
The Japanese firm has been building cars and engines at the plant since 1989, and as recently as last autumn the firm said it was committed to production there, regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations.
It’s hard not to consider Honda’s decision in the context of other bad news to hit the car industry in the UK, such as Jaguar Land Rover’s job cuts, or Nissan reversing its decision to build the next-generation X-Trail in Sunderland. It’s natural, then, to try and connect the dots, to try and identify some single ill that has befallen the industry. And, of course, in the current political climate it’s inevitable some will suggest that single ill is Brexit.
Is Brexit uncertainty a factor? Almost certainly. As Jim Holder wrote following Nissan’s X-Trail decision recently, such uncertainty makes it difficult for companies to plan long-term. And car companies need to plan long-term. But it’s not the only reason – or the key reason, in this case.