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Can Mr and Mrs Average save Swindon?

Dave Harvey | 18:38 UK time, Tuesday, 6 October 2009

In these uncertain times, here's a prediction.

When the first "Made in Swindon" Jazz rolls off the production line at Honda today, they will cheer. For the Swindon workers itself, the move is clearly a massive morale lifter. They've been open for four months since the long shutdown which made the recession real to the town, and this is just what they need. Obviously the work on the new car is welcome, but more than that, this is a huge shout from Tokyo to Swindon:

"We Trust You".

honda jazz in swindon plant

But even more interesting is what it tells us about the rest of Swindon, possibly the world, as we cope with this global recession.

Average sells.

Honda has survived where Nissan and Toyota have gone into the red because it sells inexpensive, sensible, family cars. To cash strapped sensible families. And they're not alone.

Which building society is the only one in the country not to demutualise and chase quick bucks on the world money markets? Nationwide, now advertising themselves as "reassuringly boring", and of course based in Swindon.

So is Swindon the home of Mr Average? Well, one TV documentary thought so. A three month search for Mr A ended, for this reporter, in an estate in Dorcan.

The town has average house prices, average population by most measures (average age, average unemployment levels) and is widely used by companies to test new products.

"Average is the new black", suggests Jeremy Holt. Mr Holt is a pinstriped lawyer in the town, but he's one of those lawyers with an eye for the zeitgeist.

"People trust things that are dull and that work. We're in an era where people don't want to take risks."

This is not to suggest that everything in Swindon is dull. There are clubs, nightlife, and a lot more proper art than outsiders expect. But the money in this town comes from reliable cars, solid mortgages, and mobile phones you use to talk to people.

Update 16:41
They cheered. Phew, got that prediction right then.


  • Comment number 1.

    My mum drive a Honda Jazz. No one looks at it twice.

    Especially not the Honda service department!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Well done Dave , every time you come to or comment on Honda , you get it wrong . A few facts about the Jazz - its consistently the best small car in the JD power surveys, so thats a lot of satisfied customers . 70% of Honda's sold in the UK this year have been Jazz models . Its as clever and dynamic as any small car on the market - put the new Fiesta next to one and see where the influences came from. A hybrid model should come in about a year . Swindon does make more exciting and dynamic models , if you 'd looked around you and only a little further up the line today you would have seen Type R Civics in championship white destined for Japan ( they get the full "beans" model ) . The success of this model , particularly over the next 18 months until a new Civic is launched is crucial for Swindon , beyond that there will be a new CRV also , but for now the ramp up of Jazz is key . Sales are generally expected to rise by only small percentages over the next 18 months and as you are aware Honda has already had to shed around 1500 jobs this year , many of those that stayed had a 4 month layoff ( the last month for many on 50% pay and the hours paid over the 4 months will have to be worked off in the future ) , a basic paycut , no shift pay or overtime pay and there are still effectively around 500 too many at Swindon . So thanks for coming , enjoying a look around the plant, chatting to some "suit " next to the hard working guys on the engine line and generally looking a smart alec in your report. Sorry if the line off ceremony was'nt to your taste . If you don't like coming to Honda or Honda cars perhaps the BBC could send someone else next time - someone who knows about cars and has more of a feel for the place, the people who work their and a greater understanding of what failure will mean for thousands of people in the west . Your tie was crap to.

  • Comment number 3.

    Oh dear, ZZRbear, I HAVE upset you - sorry! No intention here of disrespecting the Jazz, nor the thousands who work on it. Yes, of course it's a clever, dynamic, flexible small car as you say. My only observation, backed up by the numbers is that Honda has made money this year unlike the Toyota's and Nissan's of this world who've been burned by the big American 4x4 and super sports market. Reliable, high tech, sensible even - none of these are negatives are they? Still, offence clearly taken, so apologies clearly due.
    Will change the tie next time. :-)

  • Comment number 4.

    Apology accepted Dave, please keep in mind that your talking about a lot of people , not just at HUM but in the supplier base , who have felt and will continue to feel for sometime , the full "crunch " of the credit crunch. While the company has done its best to support all those connected to it, if there is a another downturn in fortunes - or even no upturn - further tough decisions can't be ruled out.


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