The British car industry reaches a landmark this month with the start of production of the Auris Hybrid at Toyota Manufacturing UK (TMUK), the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle to be built in Europe.

In investing in TMUK to build the new full hybrid hatchback, Toyota has signalled its confidence in its UK operations – the car plant at Burnaston in Derbyshire and the engine factory at Deeside in North Wales – and in British manufacturing.

Established in 1992, TMUK was Toyota’s first European production base and has benefited from GBP1.85bn (US$2.76) investment in its operations since launch.

Managing director Tony Walker said: “Auris Hybrid provides a great opportunity for Toyota to increase sales and for TMUK to increase production. Being the first to manufacture this new technology is a source of motivation for everyone [here].”

Key challenges had to be met in preparing for production of the new model and these have been achieved in what was the shortest lead time yet for any European built model.

Although Auris Hybrid is a development of the conventional five-door model already produced at Burnaston, its introduction has required extensive training, new ways of working, new parts, alterations to the production lines and major changes to testing procedures. Although it is built on the same production line as petrol and diesel variants, the hybrid takes 11 minutes longer to complete, calling for the integration of new equipment and specialist workers to ensure no bottlenecks occur.

Maintaining quality was essential and this has been supported by training for the entire workforce in the safety and technical requirements of hybrid vehicle manufacturing. The training also includes a specially developed diploma in hybrid vehicle introduction and environmental improvement that has been officially recognised as a UK level two national vocational qualification (NVQ).

Management and representatives of the assembly and quality assurance teams have learned best practice from their colleagues around the world, travelling to the Tsutsumi ‘mother’ factory in Japan, production base of the Prius, and to Toyota’s plant in Kentucky where the hybrid Camry is built. Toyota plants in China and Australia also now build the petrol-electric Camry.

Burnaston was the first car plant in the UK to achieve ISO 14001 certification and has reduced waste to landfill and waste for incineration to zero. TMUK is continuing to cut energy and water use and emissions from both its sites, with reductions of more than 70% achieved between 1992 and 2008.