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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.”

Honda continues expansion of operations

Honda marked its 30th anniversary of U.S. auto production by reaching cumulative investments of more than $1.2 billion in U.S. manufacturing operations in the last two years, including the announcement today of more than $200 million in new investments in its Russells Point transmission and Anna engine plants.

The expansions will add 200 new manufacturing jobs at the Anna Engine Plant.

More than $170 million of the new investment will help expand and renovate the Anna plant to add a fourth engine line and increase production of pulley components for continuously variable transmissions.

Work at Anna should start in a few months.

Honda Transmission Manufacturing of America Inc. will begin about $50 million in new projects to increase its flexibility to produce advance transmissions and powertrain components.

Work at Russells Point will start in the coming weeks.

Both projects further localize manufacturing in the U.S.

Starting in the late-1970s, Honda has a cumulative investment in U.S. of more than $12.5 billion in manufacturing.
In the last two years, Honda has invested more than $2 billion in new manufacturing capabilities in North America. The investments include:

• $400 million and 190 new jobs at its Lincoln, Ala., auto and engine plant to increase production by 40,000 vehicles per year, to an annual total of 340,000, and the addition of Acura MDX production in early 2013, which is moving from Honda of Canada Manufacturing’s Plant 2.

• $299 million and 200 new jobs at the Anna Engine Plant to innovate and expand local production of powertrains and components, including production of pulleys for continuously variable transmissions and a new 320,000-square foot parts consolidation center.

• $40 million and nearly 300 new jobs at the Greensburg, Ind., auto plant to increase production by 50,000 units per year, for an annual total of 250,000, and to add Civic Hybrid production, the plant’s second hybrid model, by early 2013. The Indiana plant added a second production shift in October 2011, creating 1,000 new positions and doubling the plant’s capacity to 200,000 vehicles per year.

• $166 million at the East Liberty auto plant for a 195,000-square foot expansion including new door and instrument panel assembly lines, an extended final assembly line and a new vehicle-quality department.

• $175 million and 100 new jobs at the Russells Point transmission plant to increase high-pressure die casting operations and to add a third line for production of advanced, efficient continuously variable transmissions for the 2013 Accord.

• $64 million at the Marysville Auto Plant for a 24,000-square foot expansion and new metal stamping capabilities.

• $800 million for a new automobile plant in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico, with an annual capacity of 200,000 units for the production of subcompact vehicles. The plant will employ 3,200 associates at full capacity and is scheduled to begin Honda Fit production in 2014.

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