There have always been skeptics. They thought man couldn’t fly, or go to the moon. They expected Columbus to fall off the edge of the Earth. And they didn’t expect Honda to do much better when it opened an assembly plant in the middle of Ohio nearly 32 years ago.
But that plant in the one-time farming community of Marysville has – like Columbus, Neil Armstrong and the Wright Brothers – proved the skeptics wrong. And sometime today the 10 millionth American-made Honda Accord will roll off the assembly line.
It’s a significant milestone, but not the only one the Japanese maker has set lately. It recently produced its 20 millionth vehicle in North America where it now operates an expansive array of production facilities, including its newest plant in Mexico which recently began producing the latest-generation of the little Honda Fit. Honda also became a net exporter in 2013 and, going forward, expects to be shipping more vehicles out of its North American plants than it imports to the market.
“We are deeply aware that our ability to reach this milestone results from the trust that 20 million customers have placed in our products, and we appreciate their support over the past three decades,” said Hidenobu Iwata, the CEO of Honda of America Manufacturing, or HNA.
To mark the new milestone, Honda is giving workers at the Marysville plant a look at the very first American-made Accord this week. The aging vehicle is normally on display – perhaps with a touch of irony – at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
(Honda, Acura lay out new plan to grow the brands. Click Here for the story.)
Honda was considered to be taking a big risk when it opened the original Marysville plant to produce the midsize mainstay in 1982 – though it had already been producing motorcycles in the U.S. The only other “transplant,” or foreign-owned assembly plant, at the time was the ill-fated and soon-to-close Volkswagen factory in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania. Industry observers questioned whether U.S. employees could match the quality of their counterparts in Japan – and whether American buyers would accept the idea of a Honda produced on home shores.
They needn’t have worried. The Honda plant was soon humming along at full speed – as, eventually, were factories operated by virtually every other major European, Japanese and Korean carmaker. Honda’s current North American production network includes four U.S. assembly plants, with a fifth, a small line dubbed the PMC set to soon open in Marysville to handle production of the revived Acura NSX.
(Honda reveals its “racing car for the road,” the Civic Type R. Click Here to check it out.)
The Marysville plant has been ground zero for the Accord since it opened, though Honda did add production elsewhere on occasion. It assembled some of the midsize model briefly in both its Alabama plant and at a second Ohio factory in the nearby town of East Liberty that has traditionally focused on the smaller Civic line.
“We’re excited about the milestone we’ll pass here,” said Rick Shostek, a senior HNA vice president, during an interview with TheDetroitBureau.com. But the company is clearly looking forward to the future and, if anything, considering its options for expanding its North American base.
That’s probably no surprise considering Honda built 1.3 million vehicles in North America last year, a 7.4% increase over 2012. For the moment, though, there are no plans to add any more factories once the PMC starts building the new NSX.
All told, the maker currently produces 11 different Honda and Acura models in its U.S. plants. According to Shostek, it purchased a total of $23 billion in parts during 2013 from 533 different American-based suppliers.
(Honda gaining ground in China. Click Here for the latest.)