Ian Howells, the senior vice president for Honda in Europe, and the most senior representative of the company in the UK was interviewed on the Today programme this morning. Below is an edited version of the interview:
Q. You’ve been here since the 1980s, through some pretty thick and thin times. Why [leave] now in your own words?
Well clearly it’s a very sad day for us, as you correctly said, we’ve been operating from the factory for about 30 years now, but really what we’re responding to and this was made clear by Takahiro Hachigo [CEO of Honda] as well, is that we’re seeing unprecedented change in the industry. And this is really happening on a global scale such that we’re having to move very very swiftly towards electrification of our motor vehicles and this is a demand from our customers but also from legislation. And it’s really starting to give us some challenges, so we’re having to address that. It means that we’re having to look very closely at where we’re putting investment and targeting that investment in areas where the volumes in the marketplace are of a size for Honda that really make the investment worthwhile.
Q: And that is what? Japan, China, the US?
Generally speaking, yes, but unfortunately the conclusion coming out of that is that this does not include Swindon sadly because of the relative size of the marketplace we have in Europe: about 150,000 units compared to China or the US where we’re looking at 2 million or so. It’s significantly different.
Q: I’ve got a presentation here for employees around Swindon in 2017. And it says following a 200 million pound investment, Swindon will be the global production hub for the Civic from January 2017. That is not long ago.