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Company now reliant upon its Ohio operations

Honda’s decision to build cars in the U.S. 30 years ago has paid off for the automaker.

Once the number five Japanese nameplate on its home soil, Honda is now one of the top brands in the U.S., both in sales and quality.


Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. associates inspect 2013 Honda Accord coupes as they roll off the Marysville Auto Plant assembly line this week.
(Examiner Photo/Joel E. Mast)

Much of the success is rooted in its Ohio operations, which play major roles in production and vehicle research and development.

Ohio is now home to Honda’s largest automotive engine plant producing upward of 1.2 million units a year and its Marysville and East Liberty auto plants can produce 680,000 cars and sport utility vehicles a year.

The automaker shows no signs of easing up on its presence, using today’s 30th anniversary of auto production to announce $220 million in new investments in the Anna Engine Plant and Russells Point transmission plant, which is already producing 1.1 million transmissions annually.

That brings to $1.2 billion Honda has invested in the U.S. in the past two years.

“I attribute our success,” said Marysville Auto Plant manager Jeff Tomko, “to Honda’s culture and philosophy of business and to a challenging spirit.

“That hasn’t changed over the 30 years and the results are exponential for the company here and globally.”
Jim Hofmann of Bellefontaine has experienced first hand the culture and philosophy and how it can spur personal growth among the associates.

“I was unemployed when I started at the motorcycle plant in 1980,” he said. “None of us knew what we were getting into. Each step we learned was new to us.”

As he continued with the company, he came to understand the learning experiences provided an opportunity to grow with the automaker.

Larry Hostetler of Plain City agrees.

“Having job security and the chance to advance were important,” the 28-year associate said. “You felt like you fit in.”

“When I was hired in 28 years ago,” said Larry Ryan, “it was just a job. I use to tell people it was like baling hay, only you get paid a lot better.

“I soon realized you can make it into a career.”

Mr. Tomko said Honda’s response to the 2011’s tsunami and earthquake in Japan further solidified the Honda way among Ohio workers.

Honda once again avoided laying off employees despite the economic and social crises, showing its commitment to the associates, Mr. Tomko said.

It paid off as associates continued to work on the new Accord model change over. Downtime was used to refine processes and prepare Marysville’s two production lines for the switch.

“Despite the challenges, we were able to make the Aug. 20 deadline,” he said. “Most automakers would have delayed the start up.”

The new Accord — a model Mr. Ryan called “our bread and butter” — came off the line hitting quality benchmarks normally seen months after a start-up, Mr. Tomko said.

And as is typical for Honda, the new model was started without a plant shutdown.

Ohio associates also have become teachers for other North American auto plants.

They are sent to help start up new plants and teach the Honda culture and philosophy elsewhere.

That role will continue to expand, Mr. Tomko said, as U.S. operations take more and more leadership for model development and production.

“It’s our responsibility to the people who taught us,” he said. “When we started up, Honda sent its very best people here to teach us. Now, it is our job to be the teacher.”