Honda Switches Work to British Plant

Production of Jazz for European customers is shifting from Japan to the UK

The first British-built Honda Jazz auto rolled off the assembly line on Oct. 7 after production was switched from Japan in a move the manufacturer hopes will end a troubled year for the factory.

The plant in Swindon, southwest England, was forced to close down for four months until June in response to plummeting demand for cars as consumers felt the pinch during the financial crisis. Some 1,300 workers took up the company's offer of voluntary redundancy, but Honda hopes it has secured the jobs of the remaining 3,400 workers by moving production of the Jazz hatchback for the European market to Swindon.

"The five-door family supermini is one of Honda's most successful cars in Europe, with over 70,000 sold in the region every year," the company said.

"As Honda has a policy of building its most popular cars in the markets in which they are sold, production of Jazz for European customers is shifting from Japan to the UK."

The factory is expected to produce about 20,000 of the cars in the first six months.

Honda said it will export just 25% of the cars made in Swindon, with the remaining 75% for Britain where it is a popular choice for buyers taking advantage of the government's old-for-new vehicle scrapping scheme.

"It's a bit of a change for us to celebrate something rather than giving doom and gloom news," said David Hodgetts, Director of Honda UK Manufacturing. "It's a good day for us and all our associates are very happy."

Honda added that demand for the Jazz was increasing as many car buyers sought to swap "gas-guzzling" vehicles for smaller and more fuel efficient models.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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