UK: Honda boosts output and workforce

By Tony Lewis | 19 December 2011

New Civic line off ceremony at Swindon

New Civic line off ceremony at Swindon

Honda launched mass production of its new European Civic at its Swindon factory today. With it came the promise of 500 new jobs and a doubling of Swindon’s output to 180,000 units in 2012. The workforce will increase to 3,500 during the course of the next few months.

They are encouraging figures but still some way off Swindon’s peak before the credit crunch in 2008. Then Swindon employed 5,000 and pushed out 240,000 vehicles a year.

But it is still good news, with 60% of Swindon’s output going for export. The workforce won praise from Honda Motor Europe president Manabu Nishimae for their resilience over the last three years – and especially during 2011 with the double disasters of the tsunami in Japan and flooding in Thailand which combined to cause a month’s delay in the start of full Civic production.

The tsunami, which struck during the final ramp-up to the launch of the Civic, had one surprising outcome. Kim Ballamy, who heads up the new model centre at Swindon, said that the dedicated Civic team couldn’t work in Japan because facilities there including the test track, had been destroyed.

“The whole team was transferred to Swindon which meant we could talk to them, including the chief designer, directly. This made it much easier to make minor modifications.”

The Civic is unique in the Honda line-up because it is a ‘motherless’ model, he said. “So it’s purely our responsibility.” The CR-V and Jazz, also built at Swindon, are both global models and are built globally which means they are managed from Japan, he explained.

Swindon is also the only Honda plant to build diesel engines – a new 1.6-litre diesel will be added to the engine shop in the second half of 2012. The plant produces 1.8 and 1.4-litre petrol units and assembles the 2.2-litre diesel all of which power the Civic.

At the same time, a new CR-V will be launched.