News : Honda to shed 800 jobs

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Honda Swindon (1)

Honda is preparing to downsize the workforce at its Swindon factory by 800, citing poor demand for its British-built models in Europe. This is the first bad news to affect British car manufacturing in 2013 – following a great performance in 2012.

But the Japanese company’s products are struggling in a European economy that’s being hammered by the effects of the eurozone crisis – and UK-built the Civic, Jazz and CR-V models, are in market sectors most affected by poor sales in southern Europe.

The factory currently employs employs 3500 people, and Swindon management is currently undertaking a 90-day consultation period, which it will try and avoid making compulsory redundancies. In 2012, Swindon made 166,000 cars, which is around 60 per cent of its potential output.

Industry analysts predict that 2013 will be a tough year for sales in Europe as the full effects of the austerity measures being introduced in several economies. The SMMT’s UK sales forecast in 2013 is that it will perform at roughly the same level as 2012.

SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt said: ‘Despite challenges brought by weak European demand, the longer-term prospects for the UK automotive sector remain good, We hope that those affected [by the Honda job cuts] will be able to take advantage of the opportunities we know exist throughout the UK sector and its supply chain.’

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
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45 Comments

  1. Sad to hear that, though Honda seem to be going through one of their poor design years – the alterations to the civic look poor, the Jazz is overpriced, and the CR-V has attracted the custom it should have – probably due to looks and the fact that it’s touching Evoque territory – they need a clear out!

  2. I think they scared off a load of the traditional Civic buyers when they went all ‘jet aged’ with it, and Julian has it bang on, the Jazz is a good car, but just too flippin expensive for what it is, and the CRV is expensive, and dreary

  3. Such a great shame. They probably carry out more serious manufacturing at Swindon than any other UK car factory. It’s what the UK needs.

  4. I agree about product desirability- Honda has begun to make ugly cars. The Civic is the worst piece of incongruous design I have seen since the last Renault Laguna; there lies some similarity – Renault lost sales because of poor designs, so will Honda. The CRV looks like it has ingested a wardrobe, the pat-a-cake wheel arches of the Civic are repulsive, and the once ground breaking Jazz is being done better by others for less money. Such contrast this is with Nissan, who bottomed out with the last Primera but learned from their mistakes. Honda used to have some prestige; they need a new chief designer with vision. Let’s hope the best is to come.

  5. @5 – Proves that now, more than ever product is king. Get it right and th world will beat a path to your door, even in these straightened times. Get it wrong and you mights as well turn off the lights. The fact that JLR are manufacturing for a global audience whilst Honda Swindon is regionalised to Europe also makes a difference of course.

  6. This is a great shame but…

    I am just about to change my faithful FRV (3+3 people carrier) for something more economical. I looked at the new Civic but it is a total minger. The interior looks like it was made by Amstrad and the ergonomics are fatally flawed, the cabin is gloomy, the visibility from the driving seat is marginal to the front and non-existent over the shoulder. The rear end looks like it was designed by 3 people with totally different ideas who never met. I really wanted to like it but came away totally hating it. I have not changed my mind on further acquaintance. There is also no estate version.

    My wife owned a Jazz and it was extremely reliable and did everything that was asked of it, but there is no small diesel engine which badly harms sales and it looks expensive. The current Jazz is nice to drive and economical but is in dire need of a diesel engine.

    Oh, and both the Jazz and Civic fuel tanks are too small, limiting range.

    Honda need to take a serious look at the Golf which is totally conventional in looks, very practical, has a range of diesel engines and an estate version. My wife has a Golf, and it is a superb family car, miles better than the Civic in every area except the engine!

    Now if VW could match Honda’s engineering standards….

  7. This is very sad news for the UK recovery (which appears to be stalling again), but as some of the posters above have pointed out, is more a reflection on Honda’s current model range, and in particular the Civic. I can’t remember seeing a current example on the roads – and I drive a lot of miles. I see a lot of Jazzes (in fact, a friend owns one) and CRVs, and the odd CRZ – but here’s the thing, they’re still predominantly bought and run by more mature drivers. The pretty past-gen Civic has been uglified beyond reason (a common problem with modern cars), to the point where the grey slip-on brigade no longer care how reliable it is, they’d rather drive a Kia or Hyundai beacuse they offer far better value, a great warranty, and offer similar values to the Hondas of old. In the case of Kia – they also look good. As for the Accord – a once very capable company car – where are they on the ;ease company lists? Why is it that I can’t choose a British-made company car at all for that matter?

  8. @8

    Accord is to be dropped from Europe.

    It has gotten too big, the clean design of the previous gen was lost (though the latest gen is still a handsome car), and it isn’t very well marketed – Honda would rather market the Brand (‘impossible dream’).

    A shame for a manufacturer with motorsport heritage usually leading reliability surveys.

  9. Bad news for Gloucester as well as Swindon as many people commute from here to work at that plant.

    There is a logistics depot here as well that serves Swindon- hope that too isn’t affected- we’ve lost a lot of jobs here when logistics company Wincanton pulled the plug.

  10. The Jazz is way too expensive. A basic model with no aircon costs £ 11,000, while most of its rivals start at least £ 1000 less. While in terms of reliability and quality Honda always do well, so do most other cars now. I think like Volkswagen they’re overcharging for what, barring the Civic, are ordinary looking cars with nothing that special.
    Myself I’d much rather buy a Suzuki Swift than a Jazz, similar quality, but two grand less, cheaper to run and far more fun to drive.

  11. This is very sad news for those workers involved.

    However, looking through the archive below the company took on 500 staff in April last year as they were expecting production to reach 180,000 last year. Taken with Jessops elsewhere, it is a very depressing start to 2013.

    However, other firms are recruiting, and Honda will still employ nearly 3,000. Let’s hope as many workers as possible take voluntary redundancy and the others find something elsewhere in the supply chain.

  12. Honda are reducing dependence on Japan for cars in Europe, £ to yen exchange rate is not in favour. So UK is a key plant for assembly of cars destined for Uk/European markets, however, Europe is in such doldrums (look at Peugeot Renault Fiat) so Honda are having to make painful cuts as plant is only running at about 60% of capacity.

    Re the poster who thinks Honda Jazz is too expensive, I disagree, £12 to £13 k should buy a new Jazz with good spec etc, I have a Jazz, superb car, reliable economical comfortable etc, do not think of Jazz as a small car ie Polo Fiesta etc, Jazz is enormous for in interior space in cabin! Mr Issigonis would be proud of the Jazz!

  13. Honda’s been hit by the fall in demand from a Europe in worse economic difficulties then us.

    I bought a Jazz CVT to replace my 04 reg Ford Focus 1.6 Ghia which replaced my beloved Rover 25 1.4 Li CVT. Great car that the Focus is mine must have been built on a Friday afternoon. Gearbox and waterpump failures a within a year of buying on a car hardly four years old. Fortunately covered by an extensive warranty that I bought and saved me at least £2,000 to £2,500. With another gearbox problem last August Ford have most me forever. The Jazz may not be the best drive, but it is good, it’s an innovative car with great build quality and reputation. Yes it is expensive but haggle. You should get at least 10-15% off the list price or as I did get some nice accessories as part of the barter as well. I got a grand for an 8 year old Ford with gearbox issues, plus the August offers £500 straight away from Honda, full fuel tank, free oil top up, five years servicing for £165 (negotiated down from £199). It is the best small auto you can buy with the packaging of a Focus type car. The dealers get good reviews too! All my Ford garage was interested in was selling me the car…

    Honda don’t really deserve this, they do need to review pricing on all models, they need a sub Jazz car for a start.

  14. If my experience of Honda’s ‘Customer care’ is representative, then I think it hardly surprising they are suffering. The top of the company needs to become A LOT more customer friendly.

    I bought a new Honda Civic Estate from P. Wood, general manager of Elite Motors, Garratt Lane, London, SW17, in June 1999. Within 300 miles and six weeks I complained of excessive road noise.

    Wood ignored me. Wood ignored me for a couple of years. I asked K. Stirrat, at Elite Motors in Catford if anybody had complained of excessive road noise. He blustered his way out of it.

    I then wrote to somebody by the name of K.W.Kier, MD Honda UK Head Office. Kier fobbed me off with stupid excuses, among them being that all estates make more noise than equivalent hatches and saloons. No they do not. In 50 plus years my experience has shown that estates make only marginally more noise, (certainly not as much noise as My Honda makes) and that is really only when the back seat is folded down.
    Kier went sending me lots of pieces of paper with lots of words on them telling me nothing.

    Eventually, a K. Hunt, I believe he rejoiced in the title of ‘Customer Service’. His antics that followed proved that ‘customer service’ would appear a quite alien concept in Honda UK.
    Hunt came to my locality in September 2003 to ‘bring the matter to a conclusion’. I thought, wonderful, something is moving. It transpired that his intention was to tell me to ‘sod off’ and put up with the noise on this bloody Honda.
    Hunt drove the vehicle and sat in deep thought for five minutes pondering how on earth how he was going to get out of this mess.
    Hunt being utterly shocked at the din this thing created, tacitly confirmed the vehicle is faulty that he volunteered to provide me with a proprietary after market silencing kit. The kit was totally useless against this din. It made no difference whatsoever.

    Still being dissatisfied I continued to complain and was still rewarded with the stupid nonsense as before. That was in 2004, since then Kier lacks the courtesy, or is it the GUTS he lacks, to further communicate with me?

    So we have a situation where I have bought a vehicle listed at nearly £17000, (over thirteen years ago, mind) out of residual income after tax, NI and living expenses, and the MD demonstrates not just a disinterest, but a positive hostility because I need the thing rectified to bring it into line with proper new car standards and I was not prepared to accept being ‘fobbed off’.

    I went to Crawley Honda. Baker drove the vehicle, agreed it was noisy and was willing to take the matter further. He also refused to further communicate with me. Was that an instruction by Kier?

    SMMT, without any knowledge of the fault on this vehicle and based purely on my description of the fault and, presumably, Honda’s excuses and, of course, mindful of their membership fees to SMMT, and in contradiction of their waffle on their website that they are impartial, proved they are not impartial, and found in favour of Honda.

    On top of all this, the security of this Honda is quite inadequate. The vehicle was broken into within six months of purchase, and a further five times in six years when left unattended. Other cars I have used and left in that place before the Honda, and those after the Honda (because the Honda is useless if I do not have a secure place to leave it unattended), have not been targeted.
    What was Honda’s reaction? They couldn’t give a damn.

    I have to advise my utter disgust for the way the then MD, Kier, has treated me. He has only brought himself into disrepute as a managing director and now, Vice President? He has brought disrepute onto Honda and their franchised dealers, and SMMT has brought the industry into disrepute.
    I need Honda’s explanation for Kier’s refusal to rectify this, quite, HORRENDOUS, noise.

  15. So the SMMT demonstrated they are not impartial because they found in favour of Honda. I don’t see the logic. By the same argument, if they had found in favour of the complainant that would have also demonstrated they were impartial.

    I fail to see why a manufacturer can be blamed for a car being broken into, however many times.

    This appears to be something which started thirteen and a half years ago. Nuff said.

  16. As I said in another posting, I always had great respect for Honda since my brother bought a new MK1 Accord hatch in 1979. He later had a Prelude MK1 and my Dad bought a MK2 Accord. I had both a British built Accord(R600)and a Civic HHR company car in 1999/2001. All good build quality,engines and trim.

    I have to agree that the current and previous Civics look disappointing – the “all new” model looks so similar to the last. This is sad news for Honda staff and I hope the market will pick up for them sooner rather than later. Maybe lessons will be learnt and future designs will impress us again?

  17. I have never had a Honda . However, I have been very disappointed by the ones I have been in . The engines have always seemed very rough and noisy to me, in various cars going back to the 1990s , with insufficient attention paid to NVH elimination , but more particularly , riding in the back of two different current model Jazz cars was in each case one of the most uncomfortable experiences I have ever had . The seats are appallingly uncomfortable , with head restraints which are well nigh impossible to adjust ; the seat belts are extraordinarily reluctant to fasten ; and the ride is diabolically choppy. It is no surprise to me that they are in deep trouble

  18. The current civic is a big step back visually compared to the 06 model. Current lineup is quite unusual. Accord about to be axed. Jazz outdated, crv not a big seller since the first gen. Hybrid models not as popular as toyota.

  19. What I have always liked about Hondas is that when you buy one, you are getting a ‘Honda’ and not someone elses platform or engine with their badge on. There are very few cars these days you can say that about. Their quality and engineering is beautiful, however they have completely lost the plot in design over the past 4 or 5 years, which is what is hitting them – is it any coincidence that in a recession BMW, Audi etc are sticking with the predictable, amd not taking Bangle-esque gambles with design?

    A great shame as they are the only Japanese cars with character and emotion in my opinion. Get the S2000 replacement out, stop being daft with the Civic and I am sure footfall into the showrooms will pick up again.

  20. Honda had a large slice of the British market begging at their door.

    Owners of previous civic’s/accord’s etc wanted more as did ex- MG Rover customers and all Honda could do was build ugly cars with the appeal of an old shoe.
    They need to look at how stylish JLR products are and build small cars with the same showroom appeal.

    Britain is crying out for a stylish small/medium car which is well engineered.
    Surely it is not difficult to acheive?

  21. Seems to be a repeat of previous observations of management releasing models without asking “is this really the best we can do?” (or “is it what the market really wants?”)I was involved in the previous generation Civic (a groundbreaking car) but the engineers in Japan seemed to be making it up as they went along very close to launch – there was little sign of overall project control.

    I haven’t seen much sign of Honda taking steps to “move the metal” when their range has clunkers in it like the current Civic.

    I have a lot of respect for Honda’s engineering and quality skills, especially when it comes to engines, but its strategy seems confused, eg diesel engines.

    I also think Honda needs to look at its marketing – it has done some memorable TV adverts but needs to focus more on its models and look at gaps in its range for which it has models available in other parts of the World, eg the Brio, Pilot and Crosstour. What is it’s USP and who are its target customers?

  22. “Britain is crying out for a stylish small/medium car which is well engineered.”

    Couldn’t agree more….current crop of cars is either dull or bleedin’ ugly.

  23. The current Civic has weird looks, and a torsion beam rear end, which suggests a dilution of the previous engineering purity (I’m sure Rover would have loved R8 to have a torsion beam rear end!)

    The range seems very narrow too, what happened to the saloon and coupe versions they used to sell, and where is the Qashqai competitor or small MPV?

  24. Something everyone has failed to mention – Kia/Hyundai are eating Honda’s lunch in the European and US market. Better looking and better equipped cars at cheaper prices with better warranties, selling to the same demographic looking make their money go further.

  25. My local Honda dealer is way off the beaten track, on the back road to Felixstowe, unlike the local Hyundai dealer which is slap bang next to the main retail parks, and the Kia dealer is slap bang in the middle of the car dealer district. The Honda dealer has no chance of passing trade to be honest

  26. My local Honda dealer is way off the beaten track, on the back road to Felixstowe, unlike the local Hyundai dealer which is slap bang next to the main retail parks, and the Kia dealer is slap bang in the middle of the car dealer district. The Honda dealer has no chance of passing trade to be honest

  27. @25 – Torsion beam rear end carried-over from the 8G into the current 9G. It might not be the Control Blade of the Focus, but if I compare my wife’s ’09 Focus, as far as NVH is concerned, there’s no contest.

    I have a 2012 2.2D Civic (9G) and I agree that it has, er, “distinctive” looks, dubious ergonomics and was rather pricey. However, as my 1st Honda, I’m hoping that its other qualities will shine through over time. I had a Civic in the form of a ’99 Rover (RT) 420Di, and that didn’t put a foot wrong in 193k miles, so I’ll have to wait a bit for a valid comparison.

    One only has to look at the US market Civic saloon, and it’s almost as if they chopped the back off and then forgot what they wanted to do with it. Lancia Y10, anyone? Speaking of Lancias, if you think the Civic is ugly, what about the Lancia (Chrysler) Delta…?

  28. I think Honda are getting ideas above their station with their pricing policy. Some of us can remember when they made tinny little cars with all the appeal of a Lada and it was only really in the mid eighties that their reputation took off.
    Also with regard to their dealers, I paid a visit to the Honda dealer in Carlisle last year and apart from the BMW like prices, the salesman seemed off hand and disinterested. By contrast Edgars, where I decided to buy my latest car, treat you like a long lost friend.

  29. Swansway Honda in Rochdale i cannot speak of highly enough,my mother in law has a 56 plate Jazz with the CVT’box and its well known problems,way out of warranty as you would expect,yet they replaced the ‘box and it did not cost her a light.That type of service and attention gets repeat business,price does not come into it.

  30. @33 Just seen this on the BBC website. Very good news. So probably of no interest to this website. Would deprive everyone of the pleasure they derive from wallowing in misery!

  31. The “new” Civic is a real disappointment, basically an uglified version of the previous one with a cheaper looking interior.

    Was also amazed at how pricey the Civics are in comparison to other similar sized cars, quite simply they don’t justify the kind of prices Honda are asking for them.

    A Honda dealer tried to tell me they’re a “premium product” these days but compared to the benchmarket Audi \ BMW products I’m not convinced at all

  32. @34, Paul,

    The creation of jobs in another part of the country is very good news, but it doesn’t necessarily help those who have lost their jobs in Wiltshire. Not everyone can afford to ‘pull up sticks’ and relocate- and there is not necessarily the likelihood of those made redundant in Swindon getting those jobs in Solihull anyway.

    If you were experiencing unemployment, as I am at the moment (though I have an interview tomorrow thankfully), you’d understand just how bloody difficult it was to get another job- given the state of the economy.

  33. Hondas have always appealed to older types (shades of nineties Rover?). The Jazz is a prime example. It’s a favourite among the blue-rinse brigade and stands little chance with image-conscious younger people. It’s the antithesis of sexy.
    The Civic, on the other hand, just tries too hard to be different and cutting edge but it’s aged very quickly.
    These two models are sending out a confusing mixed message about the “brand”.
    Nissan, as stated above, is an interesting comparison. It was not long ago that it was stuck in Almera/Primera blandland. Then it decided to ditch the mainstream, go big time into 4x4s and new niches. The Qashquai is a top 10 seller. The Juke’s also a success story. Shame about the Micra.
    I think, again as stated above, that Hyundai and Kia are taking over the “sensible” mainstream now. Good cars, well made, good warranties.

  34. Our family used to be huge Honda fans, dating from the late 80’s through to mid 2000’s we had Prelude Mk1, Mk2 and Mk3, Accord, Two Civics, Two Jazz and a CR-V.

    No problem whatsoever with any of them, until the last Jazz and CR-V

    The last CR-V was appalling reliability (in <3 years & 50,000 miles the fusebox melted requiring new dash and wiring loom; the gearbox went pop; the rear diff locked in 4wd mode; the alarm kept going off; the aircon smelt like a dead racoon – and more.

    It's replacement, a Jazz, was also dire – camshaft snapped requiring a top end rebuild and it was never right after that. It would consume a litre of oil every 1,000 miles which Honda said was "perfectly normal"! When you accelerated, you could see plumes of blue smoke out the exhaust!!!

    Our local dealerships were terrible – frequently telling blatant lies and only interested in helping us if it generated more profit for them – they were utterly disinterested in putting right problems with the cars they had already sold us.

    So we moved to Fiat, on the basis that if we're going to have to put up with rubbish reliability and customer service, we may as well save a few thousand quid in the process. Since 2005 we've owned 5 Fiats and none of them have missed a beat apart from one broken speedo (which was replaced even though the car was just outside the 3 year warranty) and a squeaky alternator belt at 1,000 miles which was fixed and the car returned full of fuel and a bunch of flowers by way of an apology!

  35. Going by my mum’s recent choices of car I would say Hondas are bought by people who don’t care all that much about cars. So they have just as easily swapped their tenuous brand loyalty to cheaper, but (in most ways) equally competent Kias. Honda is premium in comparison, but doesn’t offer a premium product or ownership experience. They just aren’t perceived as a Japanese VW for some reason.

  36. Seems to me that in recent years Honda have made major mistakes in their cars, with the Civic particularly, as if they were BMC in the 60s:
    – terrible styling (1800, 3-litre, Maxi)
    – cutting corners on suspension with dreadful results (Marina)
    – ugly dashboards (1800, early 1100)

    On top of problems with the cars themselves, pulling the franchise from small family run dealerships with good customer service

    I’ve only been a passenger in a previous model Civic, not driven it and I can see why it’s unpopular. The atmosphere in the rear seat was depressing and claustrophobic with bad visibility out and unremitting black everywhere. It was also fairly noisy and the ride was diabolically bad. You’ll gather that I didn’t like it.

    With all the above it’s hardly surprising that their sales are down.

  37. It’s hard to read about people losing their jobs and I would also feel sympathy for Honda motor as a company if they had’nt been so responsible for their own current problems.
    Honda and Subaru are the 2 ‘Japanese’ brands I’ve had most respect for over many years, but have to agree with many here that Honda really seem to have lost the plot.

    Why anyone in marketing/senior management there thought that a loyal customer of a bland but very sensible/user-friendly and understandable 2002 Civic would be comfortable buying a showy, over-styled less practical Civic 3 years
    later?

    Apart from creating new flaws in the car, they did’nt even address the main ride comfort issue that could be considered a problam of the previous car. The back-track/cheaper suspension technology would insult those who cared about such things also, (though that dos’nt stop VW doing it these days)

    The Jazz is confusingly to many people a bigger car in most respects, (and looks it) than the Civic but also looks like a fridge on wheels, is also too expensive compared to the stiff competition, with the same poor ride issues.

    I ended-up rather frustrated with both, (especially the Civic) when looking for a new modest family car in ’09.

    The Proton Persona we, (surprisingly) ended-up with has an awful image, but turned-out to be a nicely-driving car and a match in most areas with certainly better ride/brakes than a £6000+ more Civic, (maybe it’s proper multi-link rear suspension has something to do with it?…)

  38. I had a 2008 FN2 Civic after a string of VW Golfs. whilst supporting UK car manufacturing was not the priority it was a consideration in my choice.

    I can safely say it was the worst car I have ever had and it was an ownership experience that was a throwback to BL 1978.

    Honda seemed unable and unwilling to get to the bottom of my issues and tried blaming me for the problems.

    Also the standard of the build materials was not great (paint and interior plastics) despite a low milage it looked very tatty when I sold it.

    I now have a Saarlouis built Ford Focus and OMG it knocks the Civic for six in almost every area.

    Its very sad but Honda need to seize the opportunity to restructure Swindon if they want to have a future.

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