CHICAGO – Honda Motor Co. Ltd. is checking out farmland near the tiny hamlet of Fithian, located in east-central Illinois as a possible site for its sixth North American assembly plant, sources familiar with the negotiations say.

Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio appear to be in the running for the $400 million plant that will employ 1,500 workers and produce 200,000 vehicles annually starting in 2008.

Fithian has a population of slightly more than 500 and is located about 20 miles (32 km) east of Champaign and about 15 miles (24 km) west of the Indiana border.

Neither Honda nor the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity would comment on the site location search.

Illinois already is home to a Mitsubishi Motors Corp. assembly plant in downstate Normal, a Chrysler Group plant in Belvidere and a Ford Motor Co. plant in Chicago.