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Honda to leave Swindon after 36 years with sale of car factory

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The Japanese firm had been building 160,000 Honda Civics at the plant — its only car factory in Europe. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA via Getty
The Japanese firm had been building 160,000 Honda Civics at the plant — its only car factory in Europe. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA via Getty

Japanese car firm, Honda (HMC) has agreed to sell its manufacturing plant in Swindon to a European logistics company, bidding farewell to the city after 36 years.

It comes after the company announced in 2019 that it intended to cease production at the site in July 2021 as sales across the industry continued to decline globally ahead of an all-electric future.

Europe's largest logistics firm, Panattoni will take over the 370-acre car plant which is being closed down by Honda in July. The Swindon site will be handed over in spring next year, with Panattoni promising to make a £700m ($963m) investment in regenerating it.

Matthew Byrom, managing director of Panattoni in the UK, said: "The acquisition of the 370-acre Honda facility demonstrates our capabilities to work at scale.

"The re-development of this strategic employment site will deliver thousands of new opportunities in roles which underpin the operation of the local and regional economy."

A company statement said that "Panattoni will now commence all necessary planning work with Swindon Borough Council, with support from Honda."

Shares in Honda rose 0.4% in mid-afternoon trade in London.

Chart: Yahoo Finance
Honda share chart. Source: Yahoo Finance

The Japanese firm had been building 160,000 Honda Civics at the plant — its only car factory in the EU. The move could see 3,500 jobs go once the final Civic hatchback rolls off the production line.

Susie Kemp, chief executive of Swindon Borough Council, said that the "new opportunities outlined by Panattoni will be a major step in Swindon's rejuvenation following Honda's exit."

"Their investment offers a significant boost to the local economy and we are excited by the prospect of this redevelopment creating thousands of jobs for Swindon and the surrounding area," she added.

But trade unions have "cautiously welcomed" the sale of the Swindon site as well as Panattoni's pledge of investment millions. Unite regional secretary for the South West, Steve Preddy, said: "Unite cautiously welcomes the sale of Honda’s Swindon plant to Panattoni, as well as Panattoni’s pledge to invest £700m to regenerate the site."

Preddy called on "all stakeholders, including local and national government, Honda and Panattoni" to make sure that manufacturers are given "every incentive to make the site their home" and that Unite will be "knocking on every door" to ensure jobs come to Swindon.

"Not only is high-spec manufacturing crucial for providing secure well-paid jobs for our communities, but it is also essential for tackling the climate emergency and reaching net zero."

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James Watson, development director for Panattoni, said the company wanted to "provide for existing businesses looking to expand in Swindon." Adding, that the company "will be working very closely with Honda and Swindon Borough Council, along with the community and its representatives to regenerate the site."

The UK and global car industry has been battling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with some firms blaming transport delays due to the pandemic for some temporary production suspensions in recent months.

According to data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) the number of cars built in the UK fell for the 18th month in a row in February.

The figures released on Friday, showed that production was down 14% compared with the same month a year ago, with just 105,008 cars leaving factory gates - the weakest February for a decade.

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