Senior vice-president of Honda Motor Europe Tom Gardner in Amsterdam on October 23 2019. Picture: AFP/JOHN THYS
Senior vice-president of Honda Motor Europe Tom Gardner in Amsterdam on October 23 2019. Picture: AFP/JOHN THYS

Amsterdam — Japanese car-making giant Honda announced on Wednesday that it will speed up plans to have electric options for all new car models for the European market by 2022, as it launched its latest hybrid.

However, the world’s seventh-largest car maker, according to Global Manufacturing Magazine, said there are no current plans to build any new models in Europe, following its announcement in February that it is closing its UK-based plant in Swindon.

“Our full line-up will be electrified by 2022,” said Tom Gardner, Honda’s senior vice-president in Europe. “Customers are quite quickly moving towards cleaner, more efficient vehicles,” with the rapid electrification of Europe at the forefront of Honda’s business strategy, Gardner told AFP.

Honda unveiled the latest model of its popular Jazz hatchback, one of six new models planned for the European market, at an event held in Amsterdam. The new, two-motor hybrid Jazz will be available for European markets by mid-2020, Gardner said, with the roll-out of five other models planned by 2022.

Previously, Honda aimed at launching those models by 2025. But asked whether the models will be locally made for the European market, Gardner said: “Our new hybrids are being built in Japan ... and we’re able to bring them to Europe.”

This follows Honda’s announcement that it will shut its UK plant by 2021 with the loss of 3,500 jobs, citing “unprecedented changes” in the global automotive industry.

The factory in Swindon, southwest England, which is Honda’s only EU plant, will shut “at the end of the current model’s production lifecycle”, the company announced in February, as car makers worldwide increasingly invest in greener electric vehicles over diesel cars.

Honda’s Swindon plant has been producing the Civic model for more than 24 years, with 150,000 units rolling off the line annually.

Honda has insisted that its decision is not related to Brexit, but an analyst said Britain’s move to leave the EU may well have served as a catalyst prompting the decision.

Gardner said Honda broadly welcomed the latest Brexit deal agreed by Boris Johnson and the EU, as the firm is looking at opportunities provided by a “strong UK-Europe trade agreement.”

However, he said, “the Brexit situation is changing day-by-day and hour-by-hour. We see it moving very fast. Like any manufacturer we appreciate simplicity and clarity of regulations to trade”.