A major cultural shift has taken place at Honda, which is for the first time using its U.S. employees to help launch a new vehicle. Employees from Honda's Civic plant in Ohio have been brought on board to develop new plants in China and Vietnam where production is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2006.
In the past, Japanese executives and engineers set the rules for U.S. operations based on their experience in Japan. The original subcompact Civic, which became popular because of its relatively low price and reliability, was one of the cars that helped put Japanese automakers on the map during the energy crisis of the 1970s.
Now the Civic is critical for Honda, accounting for 20% of the three million vehicles it sells worldwide. Considered a compact car in the U.S. but a midsized vehicle in the rest of the world, the Civic will be built in 13 different countries, including the new plants in China and Vietnam. The company's Ohio operations are one of the pillars of the company's global manufacturing operations, said John Pleiman, plant manager for the East Liberty assembly facility. "With 26 years of experience, our Ohio associates have taken on increasing levels of responsibility and have demonstrated how Honda's corporate culture can take root throughout North America," Pleiman said. "This culture serves as the foundation of our operations here and globally."
Honda's operations in and around Marysville now include two automobile assembly plants and an engine plant, as well as the original motorcycle facility, concentrated on 8,100 acres about 50 miles west of the state capitol Columbus. There is also a research and development center and an engineering center in Marysville that is gradually assuming more responsibility for the design of the vehicles Honda sells in the U.S. Honda employs over 16,000 people at its operations in Ohio.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005