Honda’s East Liberty Auto Plant marks 30 years of production

EAST LIBERTY – Honda associates marked the 30th anniversary of production at Honda of America Mfg.’s East Liberty Auto Plant in East Liberty on Dec. 18.

Built seven years after Honda established its first U.S. automobile plant in Marysville, the East Liberty Plant was designed to be a highly flexible plant, capable of handling different models on the same production line. The plant has produced 5.9 million vehicles since its launch in 1989.

With an initial investment of $380 million, the plant began production with employment of 1,800 associates, with an annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles. Today, the plant represents an investment of more than $2 billion, with employment of more than 2,800 associates and an annual production capacity of 240,000 vehicles.

The critical roles the plant and its associates have played during the past three decades include serving as the North American manufacturing lead for the launch of the all-new 2017 Honda CR-V, the best-selling crossover in America over the past 23 years. ELP also builds the five-passenger Acura RDX luxury crossover SUV and the seven-passenger Acura MDX, America’s all-time best-selling three-row luxury SUV. In its 30-year history, ELP also has manufactured the Honda Civic, Accord, Element, Crosstour and Acura CL.

“Honda’s success at the East Liberty Plant has been achieved due to the innovative and passionate associates who have advanced technology within the plant to ensure our customers receive high-quality products,” Nari Hirase, East Liberty Plant general manager, said.

Among recent innovations is a new stamping press, which began full operation in August. A benchmark for stamping quality in North America, the plant’s new 5,700-ton F-Line servo press features state-of-the-art vision and robotic transferring systems and gives the plant unparalleled ability in the forming of steel and aluminum parts, Honda officials said. A 60,000-square-foot expansion to ELP was constructed to accommodate the new press area.

“This new stamping press showcases our flexibility at the East Liberty Plant, giving us the capacity and space to renovate other stamping capabilities for future innovation here at ELP and the Marysville Auto Plant without any downtime,” said Keith Strickland, Line 3 division manager. “The press provides a whole set of new technologies to enable Acura styling, and it gives us the ability to stamp aluminum panels, which is a first for ELP.”

With the new press and other investments over the last three decades, Honda’s capital investment at ELP since 1989 exceeds $2 billion. Combined with Honda’s other manufacturing and research facilities in Ohio, the company’s total investment in the Buckeye State exceeds $13 billion since Honda began production in Ohio in 1979.

The East Liberty Auto Plant was conceived as part of Honda’s visionary “Five-Part Strategy,” announced in September 1987, which set the direction for the company’s manufacturing, research and development and purchasing operations for the past three decades.

This strategic plan called for a second auto plant in Ohio as well as an expansion of engine production at Honda’s Anna engine plant; the creation of a new research and development center in Ohio, where many of Honda’s cars and light trucks are now developed; the expansion of production engineering in America for creation of the dies and tooling used in Honda’s plants; a plan to export U.S.-built Honda vehicles, including shipments back to Japan; and a major increase in parts sourcing efforts in North America.