Honda has made a statement of faith in its UK plant at Swindon by adding the redesigned Jazz (Fit) as the factory's third production model, which the company claims "provides greater long term stability" once the supermini joins the CR-V and Civic on the assembly lines late in 2009.

This will be the first time since Honda started building cars at Swindon in 1992 that the plant will build three different models and marks a strategic shift for UK and European Jazz sourcing away from China and Japan.

For the last three years the right hand drive UK market has been supplied from Honda's export-only plant in China (cars came from Japan before that) but Honda's UK head of corporate PR, Paul Ormond, said Guangzhou would now concentrate on Asia-Pacific markets.

He added: "This is a statement of faith in our UK workforce and, as volumes ramp up, Swindon is likely to become the European source while also supplying right hand drive markets beyond the UK."

Honda expects to build up to 30,000 of the superminis at Swindon next year, badged both Jazz and Fit, with volume rising thereafter, although a general global downturn is seen pulling down the factory's annual output from 238,000 units this year to 206,000 during 2009.

Honda of the UK Manufacturing, HUM, will extend the Christmas holiday shut-down period to two weeks, but said in a statement: "Production of the new Jazz will provide greater long term stability and recognises the trend towards smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles in the European market."

Swindon, 54 miles west of London, is accustomed to fitting into Honda's global production game plan, including an 18-month period supplying 40,000 CR-V SUVs to the east coast of the USA during the early part of this decade for currency and logistical reasons.

Honda denies strongly claims that its UK operation is simply an offshore "screwdriver" operation and points to an integrated production system, including output of petrol and diesel engines.

Hugh Hunston