The first Japanese auto plant to build a car in America¹ turns 25 today, marking a milestone that brought innovation to the U.S. auto industry and vaulted Honda to a leadership position. The 5,300 associates at Honda’s Marysville Auto Plant will not miss a beat as they spend the day building more than 1,800 cars and light trucks. Later this month, they will hit another milestone – production of the plant’s nine-millionth vehicle.
Associates recently launched the eighth-generation Honda Accord at the plant. The Accord was the plant’s first vehicle and it remains the plant’s core product. The U.S. is the most important market for the Accord by far, with sales of more than 300,000 units through September, mostly built in the Marysville Auto Plant. Nearly 80 percent of all Honda and Acura vehicles sold in America are built at one of Honda’s six auto plants in North America.
At 25 years, the Marysville plant and its associates continue as a driving force for Honda and the auto industry. Honda brought its unique brand of teamwork and associate involvement to manufacturing when it established Honda of America Mfg., Inc. near Marysville to begin motorcycle manufacturing in 1979. Success of that startup quickly led that same year to the bold decision to build an auto plant as well. At the time, the company was still a relative newcomer to the automobile business and only a fraction the size of Japan’s established automakers.
“People are always asking why Honda has been so successful,” said Honda of America President Akio Hamada. “The answer is simple: our associates. Their involvement and teamwork to achieve the highest quality for our customers and improve our operations have continuously driven us forward to higher levels and greater achievements.”
Honda’s approach to auto manufacturing was new to America with a foundation built on customer satisfaction, a high level of teamwork and a passion for overcoming challenges. The Marysville plant introduced many new concepts to the U.S. auto industry, including just-in-time parts delivery, quick die changes in metal stamping, rolling model changes to launch new vehicles without stopping production and a high level of flexible model production.
Honda’s automotive experience in Ohio became the model for Honda globally, Hamada said, in terms of local production, developing a local supplier network and recognizing the importance of working closely with communities. “We have been building cars in Ohio since 1982,” he said. “This has been possible because we have grown together with communities like Marysville.”
As the first Accord sedans began rolling off the line Nov. 1, 1982, Honda associates who were building cars in small numbers with nearly identical content and in only a few colors also had little manufacturing experience. In the last two months of 1982, fewer than 1,000 Accords were produced as the associates focused on mastering their car-building skills. By the end of 1982, they were making 160 cars per day.
The Accord was a much simpler product then, said Tim Hines, who was among the first associates at the auto plant. “While getting ready for mass production, we were producing maybe six cars per day, really focusing on assuring quality on every part of the vehicles,” Hines said. “Those were perfect cars, because we were learning to build quality first, and then the product.”
Today, the Marysville plant has the capacity to build 440,000 vehicles per year on two lines. Exercising the flexibility to build multiple models on the production line, associates have now added production of light trucks. In addition to the Accord sedan and coupe, they build the Acura TL luxury sedan, and the Acura RDX sport utility vehicle.
“The Marysville Auto Plant may be 25 years old on the outside, but it is a new plant on the inside,” said Plant Manager Sam Harpest. “It has always been changing, and there isn’t a more flexible plant in the industry with our level of quality and productivity.”
At one point during launch of the ’08 Accord sedan and coupe, production of the old and new models overlapped during the transition. “To the credit of our associates, this team carried out the most complicated model launch in our history,” Harpest said. “No other plant in America has the flexibility and experienced workforce to build six different vehicles at the same time.
The Marysville plant validated Honda’s philosophy to design, engineer and manufacture products close to the customer. Building on its success in Marysville, Honda has continued establishing plants in North America and the world to meet demand for unique products by building them locally in each region.
Today, Honda operates six auto plants in North America and a seventh, located in Indiana, will begin operations in fall 2008. The additional production of 200,000 Civics per year at that plant will help boost Honda’s total North American automobile production capacity to more than 1.6 million units in 2008, employment in North America to more than 37,000 associates and capital investment in North America to more than $9 billion. Honda annually purchases more than $17.6 billion in parts and materials from U.S. suppliers.
The Marysville plant is among five plants that Honda has established in Ohio since 1979. The combined production of the Marysville plant and nearby East Liberty Auto Plant makes Honda the top auto producer in Ohio. Honda also operates major R&D and engineering centers, a regional parts distribution center, and other support operations in Ohio.
Honda directly employs more than 15,000 Ohioans. In addition, approximately 140 Ohio companies supply parts to Honda. In 2006, Honda’s purchases from these companies totaled $6.4 billion last year.
¹ using domestic and globally sourced parts