HONDA has admitted that it had already invested in manufacturing the next line of electric vehicles in Swindon.

Senior figures at Honda told workers at the plant that robot technology to build electric cars was being delivered by boat, before the sudden announcement last week that the plant will close.

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It is understood the new technology in transit was to switch the joinery of panels of the new 2021 hybrid models from welding to adhesive.

The new technology would have been installed over the summer when the workers had planned stoppage time.

A Unite spokesperson said: “Rumours a UK-bound ship laden with equipment which would secure the Swindon plant’s future was turned back are extremely concerning.

“It is just one of the many questions we have for the company over their sudden and drastic decision to exit the UK.

“We are asking the questions, seeking the answers and working to build the case for a future for this plant and their world-class workforce.”

A spokesman for Honda confirmed it had been in the process of installing new equipment at the South Marston plant before it pulled the plug.

He said: “Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd were in the feasibility stages of New Model allocation and had begun preparation to bid for the next generation of Civic. 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 car manufacturer recently released the first details of the Honda-e hatchback which, if the move still goes ahead, will be built in Japan from 2021.

Unite will launch a national campaign to save Honda next week to lobby MPs in parliament to persuade Honda to invest in electric vehicles in the UK.