Honda Manufacturing of Alabama (HMA) on Nov. 14 began mass production of Honda's benchmark Odyssey minivan and the V-6 engine that powers it -- approximately six months ahead of the original vehicle launch plan for the plant. Production at HMA will help meet customerdemand for the hot-selling Odyssey, according to Mikio Yoshimi, president of HMA."With dealer inventories currently in short supply it was necessary to accelerate the mass production start-up in Alabama to meet the needs of our customers and dealers," Yoshimi said. "This is the quickest ever construction of a new Honda auto plant in North America, but our goal is customer satisfaction, not record construction. I am extremely proud of what all of our associates in Alabama have accomplished, advancing the launch date while achieving Honda's high quality level."Associates at HMA have been conducting trial production for several months, refining new processes and equipment and learning to meet Honda's exacting standards for quality and efficiency. In fact, the Nov. 14 official massproduction line-off culminated several weeks of department-by-department production start-ups in stamping, welding, painting, plastic injection molding, engine casting and machining, body and engine assembly and otherareas, according to HMA.HMA's engine plant, for instance, has been casting engine blocks for several weeks that will be used in yet-to-be produced Odysseys.Honda announced in May 1999 its plans to build a plant in Alabama, with the original mass production start-up scheduled for April 2002. At the April 2000 groundbreaking, HMA announced it would accelerate the start-up of productionto late 2001, with plans to reach employment of 1,500 associates when HMA meets its annual production of 120,000 vehicles and 120,000 engines in late 2002. Currently, HMA employs approximately 1,100 associates.The start-up of HMA increases Honda's capital investment in North America to more than $6 billion, raises Honda's North American employment to more than 25,000 associates and brings to 11 the number of major Honda manufacturing plants in North America. HMA says it will help boost total North American autoproduction capacity to 1.18 million units by late 2002.The Tokyo-based company has had difficulty meeting Odyssey demand. Honda builds 135,000 of the vehicles annually at an Alliston, Ontario, plant, where it also produces 45,000 Acura MDX sport-utility vehicles. This year throughOctober, Honda sold 107,028 Odysseys in the U.S., down 0.5 percent from the year-ago period, as higher MDX production curbed output of the minivan.About Honda
Honda bills itself as the world's preeminent engine-maker, building more than 11 million engines globally in 2000 for its diverse line-up of automobiles, motorcycles and power products.Honda began operations in North America in1959 with the establishment of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Honda's first overseas subsidiary. Using domestic and globally-sourced parts, Honda began assembling motorcycles in America in 1979, with U.S. automobile manufacturing starting in 1982.Honda designs, manufactures and markets its products in North America and worldwide. Honda currently builds products in 11 manufacturing plants in North America, with three major research and development centers in the U.S.