Local Honda plant has record production year
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Dec 28, 2012 | 4524 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Quality control workers at the Honda plant in Lincoln inspect new vehicles. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Quality control workers at the Honda plant in Lincoln inspect new vehicles. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
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The Honda automotive manufacturing plant in Lincoln had record production in 2012, according to company officials, and could surpass that amount next year.

Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln produced 336,601 vehicles and V-6 engines this year, surpassing its typical 300,000 annual production output. Rising demand led to the increase in production, a Honda official said. And experts say the combination of rising demand mixed with the Lincoln plant adding another popular vehicle to its line this spring, could mean even higher production next year. And that, the experts noted, means more work for Honda employees and more stimulation for the area economy.

Ted Pratt, spokesman for HMA, which initiated its annual shutdown last week and won’t resume production until Wednesday, said the plant produced a record number of vehicles and engines this year due to the hard work of employees. HMA employs approximately 4,000 people.

“Record production was achieved through daily schedules and production overtime, which included some daily overtime and production Saturdays,” Pratt said.

The Lincoln plant is the exclusive global production source of the Odyssey minivan, the Pilot SUV and the Ridgeline pickup truck. According to HMA, the plant this year produced 158,527 Odysseys, 156,920 Pilots and 21,154 Ridgelines.

And Honda projects that, due in part to the addition of the Acura MDX, a luxury sports utility vehicle, the Lincoln plant will increase production to 360,000 vehicles and engines annually starting in 2013. The Acura MDX is currently produced in Honda’s Canadian plant. HMA’s expansion efforts to handle the increased production have already led to the hiring of 350 new employees at the Lincoln plant.

“Hiring continues for process and professional positions,” Pratt said.

More work and more high-paying jobs mean more revenue for local businesses where Honda workers will spend their money, one expert said. “Honda is hoping to get some extra production out of that vehicle,” said Bill Visnic, auto analyst and senior editor for Edmonds.com. “And Honda is hoping to get more production out of its Lincoln plant.”

Pratt said demand for Honda vehicles spurred the plant’s increase in production this year.

“Production increased in 2012 based on customer demand for the Odyssey, Pilot and Ridgeline,” he said.

Indeed, the American Honda Motor Company reported significantly higher sales this year than in 2011. In November, the Japanese-based automaker reported sales increased 38.9 percent compared to the same month last year – an all-time record of November-to-November growth for the company. Part of that improvement was due to pent up demand brought about by the tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan in 2011, causing a shortage of parts and decrease in production of Honda vehicles for several months.

“Honda experienced a tremendous resurgence in production in 2012 after recovering from the natural disasters of the prior year,” said Tom Shoupe, HMA president. “The teamwork and dedication of our 4,000 associates has once again led our company to achieve production of a record number of high-quality, Alabama-built Honda vehicles and engines for our customers.”

However, Visnic said, the popularity of Honda brands such as the Accord and Acura has also led to an increase in sales and that new vehicle models should continue that trend through next year. Visnic said the Acura MDX is also increasing in popularity and will help spur growth for Honda.

Visnic said Honda’s expansion plans are part of an ongoing trend among Japanese automakers.

“Honda’s plan is to get a larger portion of sales from the U.S. out of vehicles made in North America rather than ship them from Japan – so basically they don’t run into exchange rates that have been impacting profitability since the recession hit,” Visnic said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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