Honda confirms buyer for UK plant

30 March 2021

Honda has confirmed the sale of its Swindon plant in the UK as it prepares to pull out of manufacturing in the country.

The carmaker announced plans to relocate its manufacturing to Turkey in 2019 as part of a global restructuring. Operations will cease at Swindon in July 2021, at the end of the current model cycle of the Civic hatchback. Honda promised to leave the site in a responsible way, with a sustainable legacy for the town.

It has now been confirmed that the site will be sold to Italian business Panattoni, Europe’s largest developer of new-build industrial and logistics facilities. Following the end of manufacturing, Honda will immediately commence the Swindon site's decommissioning in preparation for a handover in spring 2022, subject to obtaining the necessary consents. Panattoni will start regeneration and redevelopment shortly after.

‘We are pleased to have identified a capable new owner of the site,’ commented Jason Smith, director at Honda of the UK manufacturing. ‘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.’

Changing supply lines

Honda took over theUK site in 1985. Before this, the plant had been previously used for aircraft and train production. Once it had installed its manufacturing lines, car building began in 1989. Since then, Swindon has produced the Civic, the Accord, the Jazz and the CR-V models, with around 3,500 employees.

The carmaker announced in 2019 that it would stop producing cars in the UK and close its plant in Kocaeli, Turkey. ‘This proposal comes as Honda accelerates its commitment to electrified cars, in response to the unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry,’ Honda said at the time. ‘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.’

The move came a year after the EU announced a free-trade deal with Japan. As the UK is also in talks over such an arrangement, Honda can bring production back to its domestic market and ship models straight to the continent, tariff-free.

Local investment

The new owners will invest over £700 million (€820 million) into the site to attract new employers and provide for any existing businesses looking to expand in Swindon. Panattoni said it will work closely with both Honda and Swindon Borough Council, as well as the local community to regenerate the area.

‘The acquisition of the 370-acre Honda facility demonstrates our capabilities to work at scale,’ said Matthew Byrom, Managing Director of Panattoni in the UK. ‘The redevelopment of this strategic employment site will deliver thousands of new opportunities in roles which underpin the operation of the local and regional economy.’

Panattoni has already invested in Swindon, developing the nearby Symmetry Park. ‘We understand that Honda’s key aim was to identify a responsible new owner, and I believe today’s announcement demonstrates that,’ added Susie Kemp, chief executive of Swindon Borough Council.

As part of its continued efforts to leave a positive legacy in the local community, Honda will assess opportunities for small sections at the edge of the site that are not required for Panattoni’s development to be utilised by neighbouring communities.