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Honda sells Swindon factory to warehouse developer

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Alan Tovey
·2-min read
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Honda car at Swindon plant 
Honda car at Swindon plant

Thousands of high-value manufacturing jobs will be lost despite Honda finding a buyer for its Swindon factory.

The plant is being bought by Panattoni, Europe’s largest developer of warehouses for logistics companies that has developed 422 million sq ft of space worldwide.

It plans to spend £700m redeveloping the site and expects to create “thousands of new opportunities in roles which underpin the operation of the local and regional economy”.

However, the jobs being created by the privately owned Panattoni are unlikely to be similar to the employment Honda offered to about 3,000 workers. There had been hopes another car maker might buy the plant.

Two years ago the Japanese company said it would end production in the UK and close the 370-acre site on the outskirts of Swindon. The last car will roll off the assembly line in July.

The decision reflects poor demand for the cars Honda built at the plant - most recently the Civic.

Other factors were concerns about the impact of Brexit and Honda returning production to Japan after an EU trade deal wound down import tariffs on cars.

The scale of the UK car industry
The scale of the UK car industry

As well as Honda’s direct employees, the Swindon plant’s closure is expected to mean the loss of about 6,000 jobs in the supply chain.

Honda arrived in Swindon in 1985 after an intense government campaign to attract Japanese car companies to Britain.

The UK’s membership of the EU and more liberal employment laws were promoted to foreign automotive manufacturers, with British factories offering them a bridgehead into European markets without facing tariffs.

When it announced the closure, Honda said it was “committed to leaving the site in a responsible way, with a sustainable legacy for Swindon”.

Jason Smith, Honda UK's manufacturing director, said: “From our engagement with Panattoni and initial discussions with Swindon Borough Council, we are confident that the new owner can bring the development forward in a commercially timely fashion and generate exciting prospects for Swindon and the wider community.”

Susie Kemp, chief executive of the council, said: “The new opportunities outlined by Panattoni will be a major step in Swindon’s rejuvenation following Honda’s exit. The investment offers a significant boost to the local economy and we are excited by the prospect of this redevelopment creating thousands of jobs.”

Meanwhile, the number of commercial vehicles built in the UK almost halved in February, down 45.4pc on the same month a year ago to just 4,308.

It was the worst February performance for the production of vehicles such as buses and trucks on record, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. A combination of supply chain shortages, new customs processes and prolonged lockdown measures were blamed for the fall.