As Honda celebrates four decades of Ohio manufacturing, it faces a changing market, one in which consumers seem to be leaning away from sedans.
Tom Shoupe — a Honda of America Manufacturing executive vice president who has been with the company for 32 of those 40 years — is confident, however, saying Honda is embracing “flexibility” in its Ohio facilities, where the automaker employs a total of 15,000 people.
“We’re making some intermittent changes to adjust,” Shoupe said after addressing a Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast briefing this morning. “We’re committed to making sedans here and light trucks.”
In April, Honda announced that it would suspend second-shift operations on a production line at its Marysville plant, where 4,700 employees work. The suspension happened Aug. 1, as Honda said it would, a company spokeswoman confirmed Friday.
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The plan, Honda has said, is to prepare part of the Marysville plant to produce electric vehicles. The shift is expected to resume in several years.
And Honda has emphasized that the move will result in no layoffs. The automaker has offered temporary or “contingent” employees incentives to leave employment.
Meanwhile, Honda leaders believe there is demand for sedans.
“We feel like there will be a demand,” Shoupe said. “It may not be as high as it once was in the past.”
Retooling for the future is nothing new for Honda, Shoupe said, noting that the company retooled its East Liberty plant for light trucks. At the 2.1-million-square-foot East Liberty plant, workers assemble the Acura RDX, a compact premium SUV, and the Honda CR-V (which is made at other facilities, too).
“We’re in a position right now where we’re looking at constantly evolving and changing the Marysville operations, as well,” Shoupe said.
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Honda’s story in Ohio has been one of steady success. Since 1979, the company says it has never laid off a full-time employee, and today, the company includes 8,000 Miami Valley residents as workers, at the Anna engine plant and a pair of Troy distribution facilities. Some Dayton- and Springfield-area residents also commute to Honda’s central Ohio plants daily.
In the late 70s, some observers doubted Ohioans could make a product up to Honda’s standards, Shoupe said. But company founder Soichiro Honda had no doubts, and auto production was approved the very day the first motorcycle rolled off an assembly line.
“On the day we launched, there was a single fax that said: ‘Proceed with automobile production,’” Shoupe said.
The first auto was assembled three years later. Today, the company also does business with more than 600 U.S. suppliers to the tune of nearly $30 billion.
Phil Parker, Dayton chamber chief executive and president, noted that Honda inspired other Japanese-owned and foreign companies to establish manufacturing in Ohio along Interstate 75.
According to the Consul General of Japan in Detroit, in 2017, Japanese-owned companies employed nearly 3,400 workers in 17 Montgomery County facilities.
“The economic impact has been outstanding,” Parker said.
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