Created on Tuesday, 14 May 2013 Written by JOEL E. MAST
Honda’s Ohio operations have become an engineer’s dreamland.
ABOVE: Honda associates and guests look over the latest concept for the Acura NSX on Tuesday inside the plant that will build the vehicle starting in 2015. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Gov. John Kasich sits behind the wheel of the NSX concept model Tuesday while Honda of America president and CEO Hidenobu Iwata takes the passenger seat. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | JOEL E. MAST)
From new production processes to improving paint quality while lessening an environmental impact to developing and building Acura’s NSX supercar, engineers like Ted Klaus and Clement D’Souza are finding opportunities on the cutting edge of product development and manufacturing.
“It was going to be three years and out when I started here 25 years ago,” Mr. D’Souza said after Tuesday’s announcement the NSX would be built at the former North American Logistics Center.
“I keep thinking to myself, ‘I must have done something good as a young engineer to be rewarded with such an honor,’ ” he said, explaining what it means to lead the manufacturing process.
Mr. D’Souza’s degree is in aeronautical engineering. As a foreign student from India, he could not qualify to work in the defense aviation field. So he took a job with Honda to buy time to become a citizen here and then move into aeronautics.
Now a citizen, he has chosen to stay with the automaker.
He has risen through the ranks to become the large project leader for the 2008 Accord and then the 2013 CRV.
Now working with a clean slate and $70 million budget, he will set up new manufacturing techniques and processes inside the 183,000-square-foot building to build the NSX starting in 2015.
Over at Honda R&D America’s Raymond center, Mr. Klaus is leading a group of engineers that will get the concept car on the road.
They are concentrating on the body and chassis, while a team in Japan focuses on drive-train development.
“We have to make sure it works and that it meets customer expectations,” he said. “When developing and building a typical car, every millimeter matters. With cars like this, every tenth of a millimeter matters.”
It’s a challenge he relishes.
“On a project like this, it’s impossible to say ‘no.’ You’re always saying, ‘Yes, let’s look at that a little more,’ ” he said.
Mr. Klaus and his team have been using the Raymond center’s wind tunnel and a host of 3D modeling technology to make sure the NSX stays planted on the road at high speeds.
They also have access to the Transportation Research Center’s 7.5-mile oval, dynamic test pad and a closed course raceway to test “mule” cars equipped with new innovations.
Honda is not releasing performance expectations, cost or production numbers for the car. All of that is still under development along with use of advance materials and manufacturing process, Mr. Klaus said.
“I can get into details on what we might use,” he said. “But we’re going to bring in materials that make sense to address issues of strength, reliability and occupant protection.
“It’s not like those materials and manufacturing processes won’t ever be seen outside of here. They could end up at other auto plants,” Mr. Klaus said.
It’s this infusion of new technology that excites Gov. John Kasich.
“The stuff they are talking about here will not only draw attention in this state or in this nation, it will draw attention from around the world,” the governor said. “This is the kind of thing that can help define Ohio as a cool place to be for young college graduates.”
Honda of America President and CEO Hidenobu Iwata spoke to associates and guests during the ceremony.
“Some people are wondering, ‘Why here?’ To us the answer is simple,” he said. “It is about people.
“The location of this facility is in the midst of one of the greatest collections of engineering talent in the world.
“It makes sense that we renew the dream and build this high-tech, supercar here.”
Honda will select around 100 associates from existing plants to build the cars. Spokesman Ron Lietzke said as with any change at plants, it will be up to the plant leaders to determine whether or not to fill the vacated posts.
The Anna Engine Plant will assemble the drive-train that will feature a direct injection V-6 motor coupled to Honda’s Sport Hybrid Super Handling All Wheel Drive system.