22 July 2021

Honda Swindon - UK

Honda opened a plant in the UK at Swindon, Wiltshire and in 1992, the Honda Accord started rolling off the assembly line. The Honda Concerto was also UK assembled and that commenced in 1989 but that was produced by MG Rover for Honda. At first things went well with Honda's collaboration with MG Rover but BMW's taking over MGR moved Honda to quickly withdraw from the arrangement. The sad thing about that was both MGR and Honda suffered from the loss of cost savings the arrangement provided.

We all know the mess BMW made of MGR but Honda soldiered on. However, the EU decided to phase out import duties on cars and Honda's sales in Europe were in decline. The Swindon plant was exporting most of its product out of Europe in the form of the new Civic. It was also down to one model which causes cyclical cost issues. The upshot is Honda closes the plant at the end of July 2021. 

Now for some model history. The Accord was assembled effectively from 1993 for nine years and in that time 325,500 were made (36,200 per year). In 1995 Civic assembly was going along nicely and continued down to the end over a 27 year period (one not counted here). The Type R was a highlight of that. The undulating volume averaged out at 76,600 and by the time the factory finally closes its doors, over 2 million will have been produced.

The CR-V SUV came along in the year 2000 but it was 2002 when things got serious. 1,200,000 in all were made. The Jazz made a cameo appearance from 2009 to 2015 with nearly 153,000 units assembled. 

Looking back, it was in the 2000's when the plant was at its most productive, reaching nearly a quarter of a million cars with two models. Beyond that, even with three models the numbers were falling as European sales fell. The final attempt was made with a lone Civic Hatchback made for the global market but the cost effectiveness of that was its downfall. It was cheaper to make the Civic in other plants closer to where they are sold. 

Another chapter of UK car manufacturing had been written and now ended. Many in the UK wouldn't know or care anyway, symptomatic of the culture that pervades modern Britain. Mind you it can't all be blamed on that as Honda's way of succeeding in the European market was increasingly ineffective.   


  1. Honda did not have a winning strategy since the mid '90s. Their models were either uncompetitive or overpriced or both.
    I recall an offer on the Civic from 2006 that was some 30% above competitors. The car was surprisingly good (especially for its looks), but the model was badly tailored against real market demands. I also recall having great impressions during test driving the last Accord, but the prices were even crazier.

    At the same time, I do not recall that closing Swindon was on the agenda before 2016. This was a self inflicted damage of the workers of Swindon.

    1. I'm not sure what you mean by "self inflicted damage of the workers of Swindon".
      Honda hasn't been a well run car firm for some time now. I expect to see reduced sales globally as the company seems to lack the ability to reinvent itself in changing times. Doing what worked well in times past isn't a recipe for success today and tomorrow.

    2. Well, Swindon was among the traditional Brexit areas, that voted to its demise. The way I recall, Honda was not planning move out of Britain before 2016. Honda was struggling with strong Yen and there was not trade deal with the EU on cars (certainly not as long as the UK could prevent it).

      Honda maintains a very unfairly positive legend of itself, living on a few great but short lived models like the entire 92 model range, without actually coming out with cool cars for decades.

    3. It would have been easy for Honda to say that it was political decisions that forced the closure of plants in the UK and Turkey. They could also have said the EU ending tariffs on imports from Japan as the reason.

      However, to their credit they have said it is due to poor sales in Europe that makes plants in Europe uneconomic. The workers have inflicted no damage on themselves.

      I certainly would agree with the second part.