Swindon, Wiltshire was once quite a famous railway town, but that is the past; for the present and foreseeable future Swindon is going to be the Honda town, and that is cause for celebration. On Monday 19 December the president of Honda Motor Europe, Manabu Nishimae, announced that the company expects production to increase significantly in 2012, and that the Swindon plant will be taking on an additional 500 employees by next spring.
The start of the mass production of Honda’s new Civic hatchback has been postponed several times, due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that resulted in a parts shortage and also by flooding around Honda’s Thailand factories. The overall economic downturn has also had its negative effect, but the Japanese company’s attitude is optimistic and encouraging.
In his speech to Honda associates at Swindon Monday, Mr. Nishimae praised the commitment and persistence of the employees who have weathered the downturn and stayed on the job through some major challenges. He expressed confidence in the future success and growth of production at Swindon and for Honda worldwide; he said, “Honda has turned a corner, and the future starts today.”
The company, said Nishimae, is committed to building cars and engines in Europe, and Swindon will be the base of their European manufacturing operations. That commitment is further demonstrated by the launch of mass manufacturing of the 9th generation Civic at the Swindon plant, which will result in creation of those 500 new jobs as the plant’s operation returns to a two-shift schedule.
The new jobs will be in addition to the current work force of 3,000; recruitment has already begun at a dedicated website www.hondamanufacturingcareers.co.uk. Andy Piatek, Director at Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd (HUM) confirmed that Car Plant 2 would be going back to two shifts in early spring, and said recruitment would be a challenge, as car production is expected to double in 2012, but he has great confidence in Swindon’s ability to meet this challenge also.
Swindon will also be the only Honda plant building diesel engines; it currently assembles the 2.2 litre diesel, and in the second half of 2012 the shop will add production of a new 1.6 litre diesel. At about the same time a new European CR-V will begin production at the plant. All of this activity supports the assumption that Honda is firmly committed to its European and UK venues, a good sign for the economic future of its partners in business.
The Prime Minister also expressed gratification that Honda is demonstrating such confidence in its UK affiliations. He considers the company’s announcement of its plans to be a boon to the workforce, manufacturing and the UK car industry, and the success of those plans to be crucial to the country’s economy. Mr. Cameron also said the UK has a highly skilled workforce, and must be committed to stay at the forefront in research and development of new technology.