Honda Celebrates 25th Anniversary of U.S. Production

Honda of America Mfg. turned back the clock today in celebration of its first 25 years of manufacturing. During a re-enactment of the 1979 line-off ceremony, the original Elsinore motorcycle roared back to life to the cheers of Honda associates, state dignitaries and community leaders.

Among the hundreds of associates and guests who watched the bike come onto the outdoor stage was Kazuo Nakagawa, the company's first president who rode the Elsinore in the original ceremony 25 years ago.

The scene quickly changed to the present, when the Gold Wing and Valkyrie Rune motorcycles rode onto the stage, representing the Marysville Motorcycle Plant's future as Honda's "big-bike plant" and continuing commitment to be the best motorcycle plant in America.

The company also planted 25 trees at the Marysville Motorcycle Plant in a tribute to the entire team at Honda of America for turning dreams into reality. A marker at the pinnacle of the grove recognizes the contributions of more than 100,000 Honda associates worldwide.

"Honda's simple vision was to build products close to the customer," Takeo Fukui, Honda Motor Co.'s president and CEO, said of the decision to begin manufacturing in America. "In Ohio, we have built a solid foundation that has grown throughout North America and the world."

Three years after the first motorcycle, Honda became the first Japanese automaker to produce automobiles in America. Today, Honda has five plants in Ohio, along with a major R&D center and other operations that have become its North American hub for purchasing, supplier logistics and parts exports. Honda's Ohio employment has grown from 64 associates in 1979 to more than 16,000.

Koki Hirashima, president and CEO of Honda of America, and responsible for manufacturing in North America, said that many people thought it was a big mistake for Honda to risk its reputation for quality on America workers.

"Boy, were they wrong!," he said, pointing out the willingness of Honda associates to take on challenges and focus on the needs of customers. "We had no supplier relationships, no equipment and no buildings. Fortunately, we were able to start with something more important - outstanding people."

Honda's investment has continued in Ohio. The Marysville and East Liberty auto plants have implemented flexible manufacturing systems capable of building a wider variety of cars and light trucks. A $123 million paint operation is under construction at the Maryville Auto Plant. Last year, Honda opened a crash safety center, and added flexibility with a new assembly line at the Anna Engine Plant.

Business partnerships have extended Honda's impact. Honda's plants purchased $12.6 billion in parts from more than 600 suppliers in North America last year, and more than half was spent with 175 Ohio suppliers.

"We are proud to have Honda as a partner here in Ohio," said Ohio Gov. Bob Taft. "When we look at Honda's presence in Marysville and throughout the state, there is no doubt the partnership that began 25 years ago was a great decision for Ohio."

Honda now produces 17 different vehicles in Ohio, plus the engines and transmissions that power them. And that number will soon increase. Earlier this week, Honda of America announced that a new Acura sport-utility vehicle (SUV) will be produced in Ohio in 2006.

Investments in the Ohio plants have given the Marysville and East Liberty auto plants even greater flexibility to meet customer needs for both light trucks and passenger cars, Fukui said. "This will be the second light truck model built by Honda in Ohio," he said. "The U.S. market is now evenly divided between cars and light trucks, so flexibility also means greater job security."

Using domestic and globally sourced parts, last year Honda of America produced 677,000 Honda and Acura vehicles, as well as 108,500 motorcycles and ATVs and 1.1 million auto engines.

Honda's North American Employment now totals more than 30,000 associates at the company's 12 North American manufacturing plants, three major R&D centers and dozens of other sales, parts and related facilities. With the recent addition of a production line at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, Honda's total North American auto production capacity increased to 1.4 million units.