Today's Financial Times carried a report of an interview with Honda's president Takeo Fukui. This conveyed the clear message that Honda's Swindon plant wouldn't receive future major investments because of Britain's failure to join the Euro, and this was quickly picked up by media outlets in other countries.
His language as reported by the Pink'un was unusually blunt by Japanese standards. As the online version of the FT piece has it,
"On past investment in Swindon, Mr Fukui said: “We made a mistake. We thought the UK was in Europe but its reluctance to join the euro is a big problem.” He criticised government ministers who had held out the hope of joining the euro. He now recognises these were empty words."
In future, the UK was likely to lose out to that well-known Eurozone country, er, Turkey.
This evening, the soothing 'what he meant to say' press release from the UK end of Honda, which I reproduce in full below. To be honest, though, I don't know why they bothered. Most Brits couldn't give a toss where their cars are built.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
24 May 2007
Investment in Honda manufacturing story: update from Honda (UK)
BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR HONDA OF THE UK MANUFACTURING
Expansion to maximum 250,000 cars on target
Honda’s manufacturing operation in Swindon is on track with its planned expansion to full capacity. By the end of this year, the UK operation will be producing cars at a rate of 250,000 per annum. An extra 700 associates are being recruited, which will bring the total workforce at Swindon to 5,000.
Honda of the UK Manufacturing (HUM) is also to become a ‘mother’ plant for Honda’s eastern European production facility in Turkey. The UK operation will support the Turkish plant as it increases its production capacity to 50,000 by the end of 2007, with HUM’s design and construction engineers overseeing the expansion programme and helping to train workers. The joint operation will facilitate this growth for Honda in Europe, to a total production figure of 300,000 cars.
Ken Keir, Managing Director of Honda (UK) and Senior Vice President of Honda Motor Europe said: “Honda’s fundamental strategy has been to manufacture products where the demand is, and this very practice has been carried out for our operations here in Europe.”
Mr Keir added: “In terms of business efficiency, we think a single currency would allow us to run our business in a more efficient way. However, Honda has always believed that whether the UK adopts the Euro or not, is a decision for the British people. Therefore, we respect the UK government’s policy concerning the Eurozone.”
Honda’s investment in HUM in Swindon stands at £1.33 billion, since the production facility was opened in 1986. The factory builds the Civic and CR-V cars for European markets in its two car plants. Of the 328,430 Honda cars sold in Europe last year, over 44 per cent were produced by HUM.
Honda has a strict policy of never receiving aid or grants from the governments in any country in which it operates.