Honda Alabama tops Pilot production record amid busy 2018

Honda Alabama tops Pilot production record amid busy 2018
Workers assemble a Honda Pilot at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln. Production continued to accelerate at the plant in 2018, with a record number of Pilots rolling out. (Honda)

The last year was busy for Honda’s Alabama auto plant, with a new model joining the assembly lines as well as major new investments and expansions.

In the last two years combined, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama has initiated $150 million worth of projects that are adding more than 425,000 square feet to its $2.6 billion, 4,500-worker facility in Talladega County.

Amid all the activity, in 2018 the company’s employees also produced a record number of Pilot SUVs for the second consecutive year as part of a total output of more than 356,000 vehicles.

“Honda continues to blaze a trail of innovation, excellence and efficiency in Alabama, with in-demand products and flexible manufacturing systems that have made the Talladega County facility a key hub for the automaker’s global operations,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Honda’s Alabama workers welcome the new Passport SUV at a debut celebration at the automaker’s plant in Talladega County on Dec. 6. (contributed)

Topping capacity

Honda Alabama said its preliminary output for 2018 is 356,569 minivans, SUVs and pickups, along with the V-6 engines that power each of them.

That total is about even with 2017’s output and is well above the facility’s annual capacity of 340,000 vehicles.

Employees built 189,964 Pilots, 120,427 Odyssey minivans and 46,178 Ridgeline pickups last year.

Honda Alabama also began producing the all-new 2019 Honda Passport late this year, but will not release those production figures until the SUV goes on sale in early 2019.

Earlier in 2018, Honda Alabama opened nearly 400,000 square feet of new logistics space, representing an investment of more than $85 million.

Honda Alabama Vice President Mike Oatridge said the project represented a continued investment in Honda’s workers, products and customer satisfaction.

“This new space will help us better streamline our logistics operations, which will result in improved parts delivery, improved quality and improved organization across our production lines,” he said.

The company also announced plans to spend $54.8 million to improve weld operations at Line 2 and add more than 50,000 square feet. That project is expected to be complete in early 2021.

Honda Alabama produced nearly 357,000 vehicles in 2018. (Honda Alabama)

Unprecedented launch rate

Honda Alabama is the exclusive global production source for all four of the vehicles in its lineup. The Ridgeline was selected as the 2017 North American Truck of the Year and the Odyssey and the Pilot were finalists in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

The Passport mass production launch in early December marked the fourth new model redesign completed at Honda Alabama over the last four years, a schedule that is unprecedented for any Honda manufacturing facility in North America.

Headed into 2019, hopes are high for the Passport, which is already generating positive feedback in the market.

Honda said the Passport is designed to bring a more personal, rugged and off-road SUV to its light truck lineup.

“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,” Oatridge said at the time of the production launch.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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