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Honda proposes closing UK plant that builds Civic Hatchback, Type R

The next-gen Civic Hatch could be built in North America.

Honda

Honda announced Tuesday that it may close its car factory in Swindon, UK, by 2021. Honda said the decision came as it focuses on building cars "in regions where it expects to have high production volumes." Though the announcement was framed as a proposal, not a definite decision, the automaker said the factory's "current role as a global manufacturing hub may no longer be viable."

Although there's been much speculation about how Brexit might affect the UK car market, with automakers such as Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover preparing for difficulties, Honda says its decision was unrelated. "This is not a Brexit-related issue for us," Ian Howells, senior vice president for Honda in Europe, told the BBC.

The Swindon plant builds 150,000 cars a year and employs roughly 3,500 people, Honda said. The facility currently builds the Honda Civic Hatchback and the Civic Type R. But with the closure not scheduled to happen until 2021, there won't be any impact on those models in the US until the next-generation car. By then, Honda might instead start building the next Civic Hatchback in North America.

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Honda says the hatchback version of the 10th-generation Civic, which launched in 2016, has been more popular than expected in the US market.

Andrew Krok/Roadshow

"We are considering adding production of the Civic Hatchback in North America, starting from the next generation model, to serve our customers in the North American market," Honda said in an emailed statement. "Since we launched the stylish Civic Hatchback in the US in 2016, the customer reaction has exceeded our expectations, representing nearly 20 percent of Civic sales volume."

In the UK, Honda said it will begin "consultation" on the closure over the coming months with the factory's workforce and union. Katsushi Inoue, Honda's chief officer for European Regional Operations, said the decision came as the company restructures its business for the future.

"In light of the unprecedented changes that are affecting our industry, it is vital that we accelerate our electrification strategy and restructure our global operations accordingly," he said in a statement. "As a result, we have had to take this difficult decision to consult our workforce on how we might prepare our manufacturing network for the future."