From its innovative fan-shaped parking lot to a welcome center and skywalk entrance into the production areas, the East Liberty Auto Plant set new standards when it started producing Civic Sedans on Dec. 18, 1989.
Community leaders came to the plant today to recognize 20 years of auto production at the East Liberty Auto Plant, including representatives from the Logan County Board of Commissioners, City of Bellefontaine, Logan County Chamber of Commerce, Logan County Improvement Corporation. They also got a close look at the Honda Accord Crosstour that went into production at the plant last month.
“On behalf of all of our associates at ELP, thank you for coming here today and recognizing our plant for 20 years of auto production,” said Plant Manager John Pleiman. “At Honda, we value the close partnerships with each of you over the years, and your support is a big reason why this plant has achieved many great things over the years.”
“In addition to celebrating this milestone and launching a great new product,” Pleiman added, “the associates at this plant were recognized this year for having the best quality of any plant in North America.”
From its beginning, the East Liberty plant cashed in on its unique design when production of the Honda Civic started 20 years ago. The skywalk entrance provided additional room for loading docks around the plant to minimize travel distance for parts to production areas, and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) continue to deliver parts to the assembly line.
Associates at Honda of America Mfg. were involved well before start of the plant’s construction. The project team solicited ideas from the associates at the Marysville Auto Plant, asking them to help set new a new standard for auto manufacturing. “Our associates provided 822 ideas,” said Bill Holtsberry, project leader for the plant’s construction. “We evaluated every one of them.”
In addition to manufacturing, the plant set new environmental levels. It pioneered a waterborne paint system in mass production that significantly reduced emissions, and was at the vanguard of implementing an extensive system of returnable-parts containers that significantly reduced packaging landfill waste.
That was only at the beginning. Over 20 years, the East Liberty plant has produced more than 13.7 million automobiles, while also increasing its capabilities to manufacture a wide range of cars and light truck models. Along the way, it was the first plant in North America to implement Honda’s “New Manufacturing System” in 2000. The system’s flexible welding robots can quickly switch between models as customer demand changes.
The new system was essential for ELP to produce the Honda Element in 2002 – the first light-truck model made by a Honda plant in North America on the same assembly line with passenger cars. Since then, all of Honda’s North American plants are capable of producing cars and light trucks.
The Honda CR-V sport-utility vehicle followed Element in 2006, providing ELP with a high-volume, global model that has become a top-seller in its compact SUV segment. In early 2009, the associates at the East Liberty plant said goodbye to the Civic, while continuing to ramp up domestic production of the CR-V.
The Civic had a good run, with continuous production from the plant’s start in late 1989 until Feb. 24, 2009. Only 87 Civics were produced in 1989. But since then, associates cranked out 3,019,393 Civic Sedans and Coupes, along with the Civic GX natural gas vehicle.
While ending Civic production and ramping up CR-V, ELP associates also were preparing for production of the Crosstour. Introduction of the high-end Accord model at the East Liberty plant required modifications to accommodate the longest and heaviest vehicle ever produced there, and raised the bar again on the plant’s production capabilities.
Launch of the Crosstour on Nov. 3, 2009 completed the ELP’s transition into a light-truck assembly plant, although it remains capable of producing passenger cars.
Earlier this year, Honda marked the 50th anniversary of doing business in America, keyed to the June 11, 1959 establishment of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. And on Sept. 10, 2009, Honda of America market 30 years of manufacturing in America. Today, Honda operates nine major manufacturing facilities in the United States that produce automobiles, all-terrain vehicles, general purpose engines and power equipment products.
Download East Liberty Auto Plant Information and Timeline.
For More Information:
Ron Lietzke, (937) 644-6627