“Woeful infrastructure” for electric vehicles and a lacklustre industrial policy is to blame for the closure of Honda’s Swindon plant, according to a leading expert on car manufacturing.
Speaking to talkRADIO’s Daisy McAndrew, Professor David Bailey said the closure of the plant, which employs 3500 workers and produces 160,000 cars a year, was a “big blow” to UK car manufacturing.
Although uncertainty over Brexit was a factor in the decisions, Professor Bailey said the government needed to rethink its industrial policy to help car manufacturers make the transition to electric vehicles.
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Professor Bailey said: “If Honda are saying this is a business decision and it’s about where they’re going to invest in electric cars in the future, they’re saying the UK is not an attractive place to do it.
“We are woeful in terms of our charging infrastructure and we are lagging behind compared to other parts of Europe. We’ve got to really think about encouraging consumers to drive electric cars, encouraging investment in the supply chain, encouraging innovation and encouraging reskilling.
“The government has an industrial policy that is well-intentioned but really doesn’t go far enough.”
Professor Bailey said examples such as Norway, where consumers are encouraged to buy electric cars through subsidies, free charging stations and free parking, could point the way ahead for the government.
'Consistent warnings' on Brexit
A pro-Brexit campaigner in Westminster. Image: Getty
Although Brexit was not the sole factor in the decision to close the plant, Professor Bailey said uncertainty over Brexit was impeding investment in the UK’s car industry.
He added: “Uncertainty over the future trading relationship makes it very difficult to make decisions about 2021 or 2022 when we don’t even know if the UK will be in the customs union or the single market.
“Honda have warned consistently about the risks that Brexit could bring in terms of higher costs.”