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Published: Tuesday, 1/10/2012

Small Honda plant to be built by '15 in central Ohio

Acura NSX planned; total new jobs not set

BY ROBERT SCHOENBERGER
(CLEVELAND) PLAIN DEALER

DETROIT -- Honda Motor America plans to build a small plant in central Ohio and add a small number of jobs by 2015 to make its iconic Acura NSX supercar.

Off the market since 2005, the NSX has been immortalized in video games as one of Japan's greatest sports cars. The next version will be designed and built in Ohio.

"It says a lot that we're willing to bring a marquee vehicle like the NSX to Ohio and say we have the engineering talent and capabilities here to do it," Jeff Conrad, Acura's vice president and general manager, said Monday during an interview at the North American International Auto Show.

Mr. Conrad said the company wanted to manufacture the new car close to the engineering center in Raymond, Ohio, where it will be developing the technology.

Building a specialty, niche vehicle next door to research and development facilities is common in the auto industry.

The last generation of the $80,000 NSX came out of a Japanese plant near Honda's headquarters near Tokyo, and Ford used to produce its GT sports car at a niche plant near Detroit.

Honda officials declined to say how big the investment in the new plant will be or how many jobs would be added, other than to say it will be a much smaller project than the company's other two central Ohio plants, in Marysville and East Liberty. Honda has about 10,000 employees in Ohio.

Honda spokesman Ron Lietzke said the company will not seek state tax credits and that it did not seek credits for the ongoing $400 million in plant upgrades taking place elsewhere in Ohio.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), who was touring the auto show Monday, called the new investment significant.

"It's exciting, obviously, for our state. The auto industry is coming back. It's the sector that's creating jobs," Mr. Brown said.

Honda President and Chief Executive Takanobu Ito said bringing the NSX back to production was a personal goal.

"I first became involved with Acura about 25 years ago. I led a team of young engineers developing a new supercar that became known as the Acura NSX," Mr. Ito said at the car's introduction on Monday. He called developing an all-aluminum body for the car the biggest engineering challenge of his life.

"We have strived to create a worthy successor," Mr. Ito said.



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