The first of 500 new employees have started work at Swindon, as Honda plans to double UK production in 2012.

Honda has added a second shift in order to take British production up to 180,000 per year with 3,500 workers. Last year Honda decided that the only way to deal with the high value of the Japanese yen was to increase production outside Japan. The UK is Honda's main European production centre, and so will take more responsibility for meeting overall European demand.

UK production will consist of the new-generation Honda Civic, the Jazz and the next generation of the Honda CR-V.

In addition, a new small diesel engine will be made in the UK. In total, these new products and engines should make Honda far more competitive. In recent years, Honda has lost market share because it had no diesel engine under 2.2 litres, which was far too big for most buyers.

Honda will also be very relieved by the prospect of a new CR-V. For the last couple of years, the CR-V has been the only Honda that has continued to sell well in the UK, but it was starting to get very old. Now it will have an answer to new rivals such as the Range Rover Evoque.