Honda Motor Co. (HMC:US), speeding ahead with an overhaul of the premium Acura line, is planning a $70 million central Ohio factory opening in two years to produce the next-generation NSX supercar.
The Tokyo-based automaker said yesterday it will refurbish an existing facility in Marysville, Ohio, adjacent to its main North American auto-assembly plant and regional R&D center, to build the racing-style NSX. The factory, dubbed the Performance Manufacturing Center, will employ 100 veteran assembly workers.
“The company wants to show they’re really committed to this market by producing even their most advanced vehicles in the U.S.,” said Alec Gutierrez, an industry analyst for Irvine, California-based Kelley Blue Book. “The original NSX certainly had a following in the U.S., and a lot of us are watching the progress of the new one closely.”
Honda, Japan’s third-largest automaker, created the Acura brand for the U.S. in 1986 to expand its customer base in the company’s biggest market. New models including the RLX luxury sedan and revamped MDX crossover are being added this year, ahead of NSX’s return, to reverse a slide in Acura sales that in 2012 were 25 percent below the brand’s peak of 209,610 in 2005.
The NSX factory, Honda’s third auto-assembly plant in Ohio after those in Marysville and East Liberty, will be run by Clement D’Souza, an associate U.S. chief engineer, Honda said. Ted Klaus, a chief engineer with Honda R&D Americas, leads the team developing the car.
“The location of this facility is in the midst of one of the greatest collections of engineering and production talent in the world,” Hidenobu Iwata, head of Honda’s North American manufacturing operations, said in prepared remarks yesterday.
The company said it’s not receiving tax incentives from Ohio for the project. While the state is providing job-training assistance, that didn’t prompt Honda’s expansion decision, said Governor John Kasich, after attending the carmaker’s press event yesterday in Marysville.
“They’re making this investment because of the performance of that workforce, and the fact I think they like Ohio,” Kasich said in an interview in Columbus.
Honda has said the NSX may sell for more than $100,000. Klaus and D’Souza on a May 13 conference call with reporters declined to provide additional details of the car’s features, price and annual production volume.
The company began promoting the NSX last year with a Super Bowl ad starring comedian Jerry Seinfeld. When Acura introduced the $89,000 two-seater in 1989, driving enthusiasts embraced it for the speed it generated from a powerful V-6 engine attached to a lightweight, all-aluminum body. Once so hot, the NSX starred in director Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 hit “Pulp Fiction,” driven by Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe, played by Harvey Keitel.
Acura stopped building it in 2005.
The restyled NSX is being reborn as an all-wheel-drive hybrid, with a V-6 engine augmented by three electric motors to generate the speed of a V-8 engine, the company has said.
U.S. Acura sales rose 14 percent this year through April to 48,852 cars and light trucks, ranking it fifth in luxury volume behind Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW, Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus and General Motors Co. (GM:US)’s Cadillac.
Honda’s U.S. sales unit is based in Torrance, California. The company’s American depositary receipts rose 1.6 percent to $41.35 at the close in New York. They have gained 12 percent this year, compared with a 16 percent increase for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
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