Forty years ago, an Elsinore CR 250 motorcycle rolled off the line in Marysville, making Honda the first Japanese automaker to manufacture in the U.S.
The experiment paid off.
Car production quickly followed on Nov. 1, 1982, at the adjacent Marysville Auto Plant. Now, nearly two-thirds of all Honda and Acura automobiles sold in the U.S. are made in America.
Those 64 original Ohio employees grew into 15,000 Ohioans now employed by Honda. This includes about 8,000 Miami Valley employees 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.
Honda’s initial $35 million investment in Ohio has since ballooned into $11 billion and $21 billion spent on overall U.S. operations.
“Honda’s success in Ohio has always been driven by the dedication and innovative spirit of our associates and this 40th anniversary milestone is a tribute to Honda associates, past and present, who have provided their energy, ideas and passion to create high-quality products for our customers,” said Mitsugu Matsukawa, president of Honda of America Mfg. “Based on the team we have in Ohio, and the opportunities ahead, I’m excited for the future of Honda in America.”
It’s growth has not been without challenges.
This includes Aug. 1. when Honda suspended second-shift operations on a production line at its Marysville plant, where 4,700 employees work.
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. Honda officials previously emphasized that the move would result in no layoffs. The automaker has offered temporary or “contingent” employees incentives to leave employment.
Honda inspired other Japanese-owned and foreign companies to establish manufacturing in Ohio.
This week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is in Japan on a business development trip. Japan was Ohio’s fifth-largest export market for Ohio products in 2018, when Ohio firms exported more than $1.67 billion worth of products to Japan. There are 852 Japanese establishments that employ 72,860 employees, totaling more than 27 percent of foreign investment in Ohio.
“Japan is Ohio’s top international investor. Companies such as Honda, Kao, and Hitachi Healthcare Americas have facilities in Ohio. It is important that we build on these successes and find new opportunities for collaboration,” DeWine said in a statement last week before heading to Japan.
Julie Sullivan, the Dayton Development Coalition’s executive vice president for Regional Development, said that since Honda first came to Ohio 40 years ago, it has grown to become one of the largest manufacturers in the state.
“As they’ve grown, they’ve shown the world how an international company can create a vibrant ecosystem of suppliers to support their operations while establishing a strong community connection,” Sullivan said.
The largest manufacturer in Champaign County, KTH, is a Tier 1 Honda supplier with more than 1,100 employees.
Honda’s impact has rippled throughout the region for the past 40 years, said Chris Kershner, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce executive vice president.
Honda said it has steadily increased its local purchasing of parts and materials with more than 600 original equipment suppliers in America and cumulative parts purchases of over $440 billion over 35 years.
Many Champaign County residents work at Honda facilities. KTH is a Tier 1 Honda supplier and the largest manufacturing facility in Champaign County with approximately 1,000 employees.
“Honda’s support of Dayton area suppliers, businesses and employees have positioned them as a top corporate partner in our business community,” Kershner said. “Honda’s strong partnerships with local suppliers like Fuyao, have significantly strengthened the Dayton region’s automotive footprint.”