Honda Manufacturing of Alabama's expansion was announced Monday night during a meeting of the Talladega County Commission, which approved a tax abatement for additional company investment in the project. Construction, equipment and testing for the expansion have a scheduled 2014 completion date.
"The additional jobs and significant financial investment in our Lincoln facility will offer improved efficiency in costs, quality and delivery for our Alabama manufacturing operations," said Ted Pratt, spokesman for HMA. "We believe the investment and additional employment offered by this new venture also will benefit our associates and their families, the local community and our customers."
The Honda plant employs more than 4,000 people and is the sole producer of the Odyssey minivan, the Pilot SUV, the Ridgeline pickup truck and the Acura MDX luxury SUV.
The project is centered on Honda's "Earth Dreams Technology," designed to improve fuel efficiency and decrease emissions of the V-6 engines made at the Lincoln plant. The technology encompasses many items related to engines and transmissions, including direct injection engines, meaning the fuel is injected directly into each cylinder of the engine, improving energy efficiency, Pratt said.
Bill Visnic, auto analyst and senior editor for Edmonds.com, said Honda has been one of the last of the large automakers to adopt direct injection engines in a widespread fashion. Visnic said such technology is quickly spreading through the industry because it improves fuel efficiency without sacrificing engine performance. The technology typically improves fuel efficiency between 8 percent and 12 percent, increasing vehicle mileage between 2 miles and 4 miles per gallon on the highway, Visnic said.
"A lot of American drivers want fuel efficiency, but they don't want to sacrifice performance to get it," Visnic said. "I think direct injection is the cornerstone of where Honda is going to go."
The Acura MDX will be the Lincoln plant's first product to use the engine technology, Pratt said. In the case of the MDX, the vehicle will use a direct injection engine.
Visnic said the MDX has typically been the most popular vehicle in Honda's Acura vehicle line and the addition of a direct injection engine will likely make it more desirable.
"Any time you can roll that type of improvement into a pretty popular car, you're likely to improve what you're doing," Visnic said.
The Acura MDX was part of a recent surge of expansion at the Lincoln plant. In the last two years, Honda has invested around $400 million and added about 400 jobs at the plant to produce the MDX and increase engine manufacturing output. The facility began production of the 2014 Acura MDX at the beginning of May and the first of the vehicles became available for purchase last week. Previous Acura MDX models were made at Honda's auto plant in Canada.
In addition to the plant, the expansion efforts have created jobs at various auto suppliers in the area. Oxford auto supplier Bridgewater Interiors recently underwent a $4.3 million expansion and added 87 workers to build parts for the MDX.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.