A worker leaves Honda’s factory in Swindon © Sam Frost/FT

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Honda’s Swindon plant will close for four days next week as the UK vehicle manufacturing site becomes the latest to be hit by the global shortage of semiconductors.

The company told employees on Wednesday that “some production activities will not run Monday 18 to Thursday 21 January due to Covid-related supply issues”.

It added: “The situation is currently being monitored with a view to restart production on Friday 22 January.”

It is the latest disruption to the site that was forced to shut for several days in December and earlier this month because of congestion at UK ports, with some key parts diverted to mainland Europe.

The shortage of semiconductors has affected carmakers across the world with Volkswagen, Nissan and General Motors all tapering production because of difficulties in sourcing parts.

VW, the world’s largest carmaker, said last month it would make 100,000 fewer cars in the first quarter as shortages hit its plants in Europe, North America and China.

The shortage stems from the semiconductor industry diverting resources to the booming consumer electronics industry last year, in the expectation that car sales would remain depressed because of the pandemic.

Demand for smartphones, laptops and tablets has risen because of the rise of homeworking during the pandemic.

But a faster-than-expected recovery in China and robust sales in the US mean that semiconductor makers have been unable to meet the rising worldwide demand, because of their own production issues stemming from the pandemic.

Bosch and Continental, two of the largest parts suppliers to the car industry, both warned this month that they faced difficulties in obtaining enough chips for manufacturers.

Honda, which sources its chips from Asia, has cut production in other markets because of the shortage.

The Japanese carmaker’s UK site, which is due to close permanently this summer, has been disrupted more than most British plants because of its reliance on deliveries of parts from its home market.

Several UK plants are currently closed, including BMW’s Mini factory in Oxford, for planned maintenance shutdowns from over Christmas.

Carmakers in the UK had been bracing for disruption to their parts supply as new post-Brexit customs rules come into force at the start of this month.

A deal between the UK and EU means that manufacturers will not face tariffs when importing parts or exporting vehicles, but there is still the potential for deliveries to be delayed by new customs regulations.


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