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Published: Friday, 12/7/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Honda expects to be net exporter from North America within two years

DAN GEARINO
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Within two years, Honda will export more vehicles from North America than it imports, the company said today.

The automaker can do this because of expansions at several plants. Some of the new capacity is in Ohio, but most is in Indiana, Alabama and Mexico.

“In the coming years, we will take on the challenge of helping even more customers around the world enjoy Honda products made in the USA,” said Takanobu Ito, Honda’s Tokyo-based president and CEO, in a video message.

Honda made the announcement today at the Marysville assembly plant, the first and still largest Honda factory on the continent. Company leaders gathered there to celebrate the assembly of the one millionth U.S.-made Honda for export, a 2013 Accord sedan. The Accord will be part of a shipment bound for South Korea.

Last year, Honda exported 45,050 vehicles from its U.S. plants, according to a company report. Mexico was the top destination, receiving about 40 percent. This year, the company anticipates it will export 90,000 vehicles. The figures exclude sales from the U.S. to Canada, which Honda does not count as exports.

Export growth is coming from new or expanding markets, such as the Middle East, said Jim Burrell, assistant vice president in the export sales division of American Honda Motor Co.

“It’s not a specific goal to be a net exporter, but it’s a result of what we’ve done and what we’ve built here in North America,” he said.

Of the 1.1 million vehicles Honda sold in the United States last year, 84 percent were assembled in North America. That leaves 171,322 that were assembled elsewhere.

Honda will become a net exporter by increasing North American production and reducing the number of vehicles it gets from Japan. Much of this shift is because production of the Fit subcompact for North America will take place at a new plant in Mexico instead of in Japan. Several other plants are also increasing capacity.

“That is a fairly big deal,” said Aaron Bragman, senior analyst for IHS Automotive. “They’re no longer an import brand.”

The company built its first car in North America in 1982. Five years later was the first time a Honda car from the continent was exported -- to Taiwan.

From 1987 to last year, exports totaled 931,629 vehicles.

Honda has about 13,500 employees in Ohio, a number that will increase by several hundred as a result of the changes. The company has assembly plants in Marysville and East Liberty, an engine plant in Anna and a transmission plant in Russells Point.

Ohio plants make the following models for sale in the United States and for export: the Accord, CR-V, Crosstour, Acura TL and Acura RDX.



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