Honda Says EVs, Not Brexit, to Blame for Honda Plant Shutdown

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【Summary】The senior vice-president for Honda in Europe, says Honda’s need to “move very swiftly to electrification of our vehicles” is the motivation behind the decision to close the company’s Swindon plant.

Mia Bevacqua    Apr 02, 2019 10:00 AM PT
Honda Says EVs, Not Brexit, to Blame for Honda Plant Shutdown

Earlier this week, Honda confirmed that, by 2021, it will close the doors on its Swindon plant in South West England. The location, which currently provides 3,500 jobs, is the Japanese automaker's only factory in the EU.

Naturally, many assumed the decision was due to Brexit – Britain leaving the European Union – but Honda says that isn't the case. Company executives say, rather, that the shutdown has to do with electric vehicles and global changes in the auto industry.

It's EVs; not Brexit

Ian Howells, senior vice-president for Honda in Europe, told the BBC: "We're seeing unprecedented change in the industry on a global scale. We have to move very swiftly to electrification of our vehicles because of demand of our customers and legislation. This is not a Brexit-related issue for us, it's being made on the global-related changes I've spoken about. We've always seen Brexit as something we'll get through, but these changes globally are something we will have to respond to. We deeply regret the impact it will have on the Swindon community."

Honda previously announced it hopes to have two-thirds of its cars sales be electric by 2030. And Britain may not be the place to produce those vehicles.

Is lack of EV support a contributing factor?

Although the UK has committed to investing £400m in charging infrastructure by 2020, it has also taken some steps backward. For example, last year, the Department of Transport decided to cut back on grants for plug-in hybrid vehicles and EVs.

Furthermore, some feel the charging infrastructure is lacking. Right now, there are approximately 1,500 stations in the UK, and according to an article from Independent, that number needs to increase six-fold by the end of next year.

Government officials, however, disagree and feel Britain is at the forefront of the EV race. "The U.K. is one of the leaders in the development of these technologies and so it is deeply disappointing that this decision has been taken now," Business Secretary Greg Clark said, according to Reuters.

"This is a devastating decision for Swindon and the U.K.," Clark said. "This is a commercial decision based on unprecedented changes in the global market."

Honda hurries to catch up in the EV race

Like the rest of the auto industry, Honda is serious about electrification and is scrambling to get EVs to market. The automaker plans to unveil its new Urban EV hatchback at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show in March.

Currently, Honda has its limited production – and limited range – Clarity EV for sale in the U.S. The car gets juice from a 25.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and can only drive 89 miles on a charge. Like the fuel-cell Clarity, the battery electric car is only sold at select dealerships in California and Oregon. So, it's easy to see why Honda is eager to dedicate more R&D towards EVs. 

Sources: BBC, Honda, Express, IndependentReuters

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