By now, Honda is a seasoned veteran when it comes to building cars in the U S of A. The first US-built Honda rolled off the Marysville, Ohio line in 1982, and Honda has been annually pumping out hundreds of thousands of North American-built vehicles pretty much ever since.
Over the years, Honda has expanded its North American capacity to meet the demands of the US and Canadian marketplace. The most recent addition to Honda's North American presence is located approximately 30 minutes east of Birmingham, Alabama, in the small town of Lincoln. Here they employ over 2000 Honda Associates and build upwards of 600 Honda Odysseys every day. And as you may have already read here in the TOV news section, they're gearing up for a dramatic expansion in capacity, nearly doubling the number of associates as well as the annual build capacity.
To those unfamiliar with the enormous scale of a modern mass-production facility, the sheer acreage of the Lincoln plant can be overwhelming. Once inside, the building seems to stretch for miles, and every square inch is utilized to its maximum extent. While the enormity of the facility is staggering, perhaps more impressive is the unfathomable schedule that took the plant from groundbreaking to full operation in a mere 19 months. It would be considered a small miracle if I could clean and organize my garage in that timeframe. Perhaps a more leisurely schedule could have been planned had not the Odyssey been in such a state of high demand.
Demand for the Odyssey remains strong, and at the time of our visit to Lincoln (June, 2003), they were cranking out around 670 shiny examples across two shifts per day (slightly over the stated capacity of 650 units/day). Virtually the entire body in white and motor are produced on-site from raw materials, mainly because it's too costly to be shipping bulky items and nobody wants to have to deal with managing that sort of inventory. Still, 1.7 Million parts come in the door each day of the 5 production day week, carefully obeying the tenets of Just In Time manufacturing.
During the time of our visit, construction operations (a massive project of its own) were well underway for the second line, which is due to come online in the first quarter of 2004. This second line basically mirrors the current line and will double the capacity at the Lincoln facility, allowing anxious buyers for Odysseys and Pilots to be satisfied more quickly.