Swindon’s recession-hit car industry has received a double dose of good news as the town's two car plants made significant announcements.
At Honda, the first production models of its latest made-in-Swindon car – the new Civic Tourer – rolled off the production line at the massive plant on the outskirts of the town last Thursday.
And on the same day BMW announced it is to create 1,000 jobs in the UK over the next three years – including at its Swindon pressings plant, which makes most body parts for the Mini. BMW has invested millions of pounds to transform the plant into one of the most-advanced of its kind in Europe.
The new Honda model is a significant boost for its South Marston plant, which started 2013 by announcing it had to shed 800 permanent jobs and a further 150 agency posts as it battled a slowdown in the European market.
Senior management used the traditional ‘line off’ celebration last Thursday to congratulate the plant’s workforce – or associates as Honda calls them – for their hard work in the creating the bespoke European model.
The Japanese car giant’s European research and development team and Honda’s suppliers were also praised at the event.
Honda European President Manabu Nishimae told workers gathered at the production line end: “More than any other product, the Civic Tourer highlights the ambition, energy, skill and tenacity of our associates.
“Developed, designed, tested and produced here in Europe, the Civic Tourer demonstrates what can be achieved by our European teams.”
And Adrian Killham, chief engineer for the new model, said: “The new Civic Tourer delivers the biggest boot volume in its class, CO2 emissions of 99g/km and a unique, distinctive style which has been highly complemented in the media ever since being revealed as a concept at the Geneva Show in March this year.”
The car will go on sale in UK dealerships early next year. It comes with the choice of two engines; the 1.8 i-VTEC petrol and the new 1.6 i-DTEC diesel.
The plant also produces the hatchback version of the Civic and the Jazz and CR-V models
More than 550 of the job losses announced in January at the plant went through voluntary redundancy. The job losses have taken the workforce to under 3,000 for the first time in more than a decade. But Honda insists it has a strong future. The plant has capacity to produce 250,000 vehicles a year yet last year produced 166,000. In 2001 the figure was even lower at 97,000. In 2008 some 230,000 cars left the factory.
BMW's Swindon plant, which employs around 800 people, makes about 90% of the pressings and almost 80% of the sub-assemblies, such as doors, bonnets and tailgates for the third-generation Mini launched last month.
The plant forms one corner of BMW’s Mini production triangle with sister plants at Oxford (formerly known as Cowley) and Hams Hall near Birmingham. Most of the 1,000 new jobs will be created in Oxford but BMW confirmed Swindon would also benefit as Mini production increases.