Honda trumpets the British-built Jazz
The first British-built Honda Jazz car rolled off the new production line today. The car manufacturer hopes the model will signal the end of a difficult year which saw the plant in Swindon, Wiltshire, close down for four months.
Production of the Jazz for European customers has been moved from Japan to the Swindon factory, where Honda hopes to build 20,000 cars. Honda said it will export just 25 per cent of the cars manufactured at Swindon, and the remaining 75 per cent will be for the UK market.
The manufacturer added that the British Government's scrappage scheme has given Jazz sales a significant boost, with the five-door family supermini making up 70 per cent of all of Honda's scrappage deals.
The addition of the Jazz brings the planned total production level for the Swindon plant in this financial year to 100,600.
Director of Honda UK Manufacturing David Hodgetts said there was a positive atmosphere in the plant. "It's a bit of a change for us to celebrate something, rather than giving doom and gloom news. It's a good day for us and all our associates are very happy," he said.
Honda's 3,400 workers returned to work at Swindon in June after a four-month shutdown, during which 1,300 workers took the company's offer of voluntary redundancy. The employees who remained at Swindon agreed to a three per cent pay cut while managers had their pay reduced by five per cent.
During the closure, Honda rebuilt assembly lines and brought in new robots and machinery for the Jazz.
But Mr Hodgetts said he always knew the day would come when business started to pick up. He went on: "We had some very clear plans for the four months shutdown. We deliberately decided to shut the plant down and allow our stocks to reduce in that period.
"We had around about 1,000 people working through that period to do a huge renovation across all three plants."
He added that moving the work from Japan to Swindon showed "great confidence" in the British workforce. "We've been able to get a lot of credibility from the Honda Motor point of view, and it's great to have the confidence Honda Motor have in us."
The Jazz has become one of Honda's most successful cars in Europe following a trend for buyers to downsize from bigger models to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.