Business

U.K. minister to head for Japan and try to convince Honda to reconsider Swindon plant shutdown

Kyodo, JIJI

U.K. business secretary Greg Clark will travel to Japan to ask Honda Motors Co. to rethink its recent decision to close a car plant in his country, according to a British media report.

Clark has launched a “last-ditch attempt” to get the major automaker to stay in Britain, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

The minister, who is considering offering financial assistance to Honda, is expected to directly ask Honda President Takahiro Hachigo to withdraw the plan to shut down the company’s only four-wheel vehicle factory in Europe, the paper reported.

The firm recently decided it would close the company’s plant in Swindon, England, in 2021, a move that would slash 3,500 jobs.

The decision came amid uncertainties stemming from the U.K.’s scheduled exit from the European Union on March 29.

Honda did not directly attribute its decision to Brexit, saying the move was made to speed up its development of electrified cars. The company did acknowledge it is worried about possible parts supply disruptions.

Britain set up a task force made up of people from the government and local businesses to discuss how to support workers affected by Honda’s plant closure.

The Daily Telegraph quoted a task force source as saying that “once a viable package has been put together in a few weeks, Greg has got to get on a plane to Japan to make the case.”

The source also said that “Greg needs to show Honda that the U.K. can offer stability and is still a good place to build cars,” according to the daily.

Honda’s decision followed a Nissan Motor Co. announcement that it was canceling plans to produce its next-generation SUV at its Sunderland plant in northeastern England. Nissan said it needs to optimize its regional investment strategy while indicating Brexit uncertainty also played a role.

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