Honda Motor (IW 1000/23) is ramping up production in the United States and expects to double its U.S.-made vehicle exports in the next few years, a senior Honda official said Wednesday. Honda will export about 100,000 units this year to markets in Europe, South America and Asia, said Rick Schostek, senior vice president of Honda of America Manufacturing.
"That number will double in the next couple of years," Schostek said at an Automotive Press Association event in Detroit.
In 2011, Honda's operations in the U.S. exported 53,000 units outside North America, he said.
Schostek announced that Honda will invest $40 million in an Indiana plant to increase annual production capacity by 50,000 units, to a total of 250,000 vehicles. The Greensburg, Indiana-based plant will hire roughly 300 new workers later this year in preparation for the increased production that will start early next year, he said.
The plant will add production of the Civic Hybrid, Honda's most popular hybrid model in the United States. In April it became Honda's first plant in North America to build a hybrid vehicle, the Acura ILX Hybrid.
Last year the Indiana plant opened a second shift of production that added approximately 1,000 jobs.
That was also the year that, for the first time, Honda built more vehicles in the United States than in Japan, as the Japanese automaking industry reeled from the March 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster.
Honda's production in the U.S. was 823,000 units, compared with 710,000 in Japan.
In 2010, production was slightly higher in Japan but overall Honda is expanding production in the U.S. and North America, where it began building cars in 1982. "Nine of the 10 Honda and Acura vehicles we sell in the U.S. will be built here," said Shostek, adding that the North American operations will also take on a larger role in the development of key models such as the mid-sized Honda Accord.
Honda announced in August 2011 it would build a new assembly plant in central Mexico, slated to open in 2014. The expansion in Mexico and at the Indiana plant will raise Honda's total production capacity in North America, including Mexico and Canada, to 1.92 million units by the middle of the decade.
Since late last year, Honda's seven automobile production plants in North America have been operating at or above their current full straight-time capacity, which totals 1.63 million vehicles per year, Schostek said.
-Joseph Szczesny, Agecne France-Presse
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012