Honda Manufacturing of Alabama this week celebrated the start of production of the all-new 2019 Honda Passport SUV, which will play a key role in the company’s efforts to meet high demand in the U.S. light truck market.
Employees cheered as the new model was driven out in a ceremony that has become a regular event at the $2.6 billion, 4,500-worker plant in Talladega County. In the last four years, the factory has completed four major model changes, and it is consistently recognized as a crucial hub of Honda’s global operations.
“Today, we celebrate the dedication of our Honda team in Alabama in delivering this new, adventure-ready sport utility vehicle to our customers,” said Mike Oatridge, vice president of Honda Alabama.
“I congratulate all of our associates for their commitment to our customers as we begin production of the new Passport, which is Honda’s most rugged light truck model with features that deliver more of what today’s adventurous customers want and need.”
The Passport, which was unveiled last month at the Los Angeles Auto Show, will be positioned between the compact CR-V and the three-row Pilot in Honda’s SUV lineup. The new SUV revives the nameplate of an SUV Honda sold in the 1990s and early 2000s.
It will go on sale early next year.
At the Alabama plant, the Passport joins a lineup that includes Honda’s Odyssey minivan, Pilot SUV and Ridgeline pickup. The facility has the capacity to produce more than 340,000 vehicles and V6 engines each year, and employees have built more than 4.7 million vehicles and engines since it opened in 2001.
Honda Alabama has been participating in the development of the Passport for a little more than two years, Oatridge said.
The process included additional training for about 2,000 workers at the factory’s Line 2. The Passport is based on Honda’s Global Light Truck Platform and shares much of its underlying structure with the Pilot and Ridgeline, including a highly rigid unibody construction.
“Because of our flexible manufacturing systems, it doesn’t require a lot of new tooling but it does require retraining,” he said.
Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the all-new Passport is yet another example of the importance of Honda’s Talladega County operations on the international automotive industry stage.
“Time and again, Honda’s global leadership has entrusted key products to their Alabama workforce, and we congratulate all of them for another impressive achievement,” he said.
“Across Alabama’s auto industry, we continue to see new jobs, new investments and new responsibilities to build high-quality, in-demand products for customers around the world, and our workers are meeting and exceeding those challenges.”
Oatridge and other Honda officials also credited the skill, dedication and teamwork of employees for making the new Passport a reality, and it is already turning heads in the market.
“The positive response to Passport really signals Honda is poised to compete in this segment,” said Lara Harrington, chief engineer and Passport development leader.
“I think we are hitting the market at just the right time for this vehicle. The Honda Passport is designed to bring a more personal, rugged and off-road SUV to our award-winning light truck lineup, and we are all excited to see where this new product will take us.”
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.