Japanese car giant Honda has accelerated plans to electrify its cars,pledging that every single vehicle sold in Britain and Europe will have some form of electrification by 2025.
That ranges from cars that are pure electric to hybrids.
The announcement came as Honda unveiled an all-electric hatchback - the firm’s flagship battery-powered car - blamed for the closure of of the company’s UK factory in Swindon from 2021 with the loss of 3,500 direct jobs and thousands more with suppliers and support firms.
Honda bosses said the move towards electrification - with electric car production concentrated in Japan and exported directly to Europe - meant it was no longer economically viable to keep the Swindon factory open.
But in a deeply poignant twist it has also emerged that Honda bosses at Swindon were busy making preparations and investments to build the next generation of electric hybrid cars, just as top executives in Japan made the decision to pull the plug on the UK plant.
Robot technology to build electrified cars was being delivered by boat ready for installation as the sudden closure announcement was made.
The new technology for hybrid cars planned for 2021 would have been installed over the summer when the workers had scheduled for the assembly line to halt in order for the work to be carried out.
Honda confirmed it had been in the process of installing new equipment at the Swindon plant before Japanese bosses pulled the plug.
It said the UK arm was ‘in the feasibility stages of new model allocation and had begun preparation to bid for the next generation of Civic'.
It noted: ’The new Civic was to feature a petrol-electric hybrid within the model line-up.
‘In order to prepare Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd for future models, installation of some equipment and changes to the layout of the plant had to take place before the model allocation was confirmed.
'This was due to the long lead time for ordering and installation of this equipment.’
The new all-electric Honda-e hatchback, revealed last week, marks the start of that switch in strategy that effectively killed off Swindon.
The four- seater urban electric runaround promises a range of 124 miles and a fast charge function that can replenish 80 per cent of its battery in just 30 minutes and making it ‘ideal for commuting’.
Expect prices between £25,000 and £30,000 when it goes on sale later this year. It also features sporty rear wheel drive.
One top Honda executive admitted: ’It would be fair to say that arrival of this new car - and what it represents in wider terms about electrification - sealed Swindon’s fate.‘
Up to now Honda had set a target of two thirds of cars sold having some form of electrification.
Today Honda announced a commitment to 'total electrification in Europe’ within six years announcing its ambition ‘to make 100 per cent of its European automobile sales electrified by 2025.’
Announcing its intention, the firm said: ‘This new ambition builds on the brand’s 2017 aim of two-thirds of its sales to be electrified by 2025, and places it firmly at the forefront of Honda’s global electrification shift announced as part of its 2030 vision.‘
Tom Gardner, senior vice president of Honda Motor Europe, added: ’Since we made that first pledge in March 2017, the shift towards electrification has gathered pace considerably.
‘Environmental challenges continue to drive demand for cleaner mobility. Technology marches on unrelenting and people are starting to shift their view of the car itself.’
Earlier this year Honda launched the all-new CR-V Hybrid.
The firm added: ’Honda expects full hybrid technology to play a key role in meeting its aims of 100 per cent electrification by 2025.’
Honda also announced plans to improve electric car charging.