Japanese car manufacturer Honda is bucking the trend with a recession-busting £267m worth of investment in its British plant in Swindon, supporting the launch of the new Civic Honda model and a new 1.6-litre diesel engine.
With output predicted to rise to a quarter of a million cars in three years, and a 3,500 strong workforce at the Wiltshire site, the firm’s UK sales are up by 10% at a time when many car makers face overcapacity and dwindling sales.
In all, Honda has invested over £1.5bn in the 370-acre Swindon site, which exports to dozens of countries worldwide.
There’s also news up north as Honda dealerships in the north-east are under new ownership. Existing sites in Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham have been acquired by Vertu Motors PLC from Springfield Cars Ltd, adding to Vertu Motors’ existing portfolio to make it the UK’s biggest group of Honda dealers.
The strong investment comes at a key time for Honda – the firm’s Civic marks its fortieth birthday this year. And its line of new cars is showing no signs of a mid-life crisis! The model has undergone no fewer than nine generational changes since its launch in 1972.
When it was first unveiled, it hit the American market at a time of fuel crisis and quickly became popular for its fuel economy, reliability and environmental friendliness. Equally, Civics have always been hugely popular family cars.
Later versions became known for their performance and sportiness, especially the Civic Type-R, GTi and SiRnd. Over the decades, the model has become increasingly upmarket, with additions such as air conditioning, power locks, power windows, leather upholstery, satellite-linked navigation, and a six-speed manual transmission.
By 2006, 16.5 million Civics in all had been sold across the world, nearly half of them in the United States.
The eighth generation of the model in particular marked a radical departure from earlier incarnations, with its sharp angles and triangular exhaust pipes.
But, in response to driver feedback, the design was modified for the ninth generation, whose wraps were taken off earlier this year. The square-cut rear end became curved, and those triangular exhaust pipes were made rounder, while the front was given a sportier look.
One national newspaper motoring journalist said: “The new suspension means it feels supple without any loss of that racy road feel, and the space-age dashboard is unchanged.”
A rear bench folds up to increase the space of the already deep boot, while this model also has the cleanest and most powerful units of the whole Civic range – choose between two petrol units or a 2.2-litre diesel.
Now the landmark anniversary of the Civic family is being celebrated with the launch of a super frugal engine, the 1.6 litre diesel i-DTEC, which will provide CO2 emissions of just 95g/km. And a Civic racing car has even been entered in the World Touring Car championships.
At the same time, the racing model’s engineering technology is to be transferred to the development of the Civic Type-R, due to arrive in 2015.