Examine the multitudinous "global domination" philosophies in the automaking business - and there is no shortage of these strategies - andMotor Co. Ltd.'s idea of producing a few platforms, then modifying them to suit various world regions, holds up particularly well.
Especially in North America, wherecontinually and steadfastly is increasing production and local sourcing. In the U.S., few vehicles sold by Honda, or its Acura upscale division, are made outside North America. Only the Honda Prelude and CR-V sport-ute, the Acura Integra, RL and NSX are produced solely in Japan.
In only the past three years, Honda has brought U.S.-bound Accord and Civic production all but entirely within North America's borders, and has added production of the Acura CL and TL and the all-new Odyssey minivan.
The Odyssey is particularly crucial. The largest vehicle Honda has ever built, the production facility now is at or near full single-shift line speed at a new Honda of Canada Manufacturing (HCM) site adjacent to the automaker's Civic production line in Alliston, Ont., that was inaugurated in 1986.
The Alliston No. 2 plant brought Odyssey from zero to line speed in 87 days, the quickest time ever for a company already renowned for its manufacturing prowess. HCM officials say the Alliston No. 2 site now is Honda's most technologically advanced plant, regardless of region.
The addition of the Odyssey brings total North American Honda/Acura production capacity to nearly 850,000 units. More importantly, industry insiders predict that volume will quickly rise as pent-up demand for a bigger-than-Accord family vehicle must be satisfied.
And the Odyssey is only the start; Honda Executive Vice President Richard G. Colliver has openly discussed the company's plan to introduce another vehicle at the Alliston No. 2 site. That vehicle will be a larger successor to the current Passport sport/utility vehicle. The SUV likely will borrow substantially from the Odyssey parts bin. Volume for the new Passport is as yet unknown.
Another feather in Honda's "global regions" appears to be the redesigned Acura TL 4-door luxury sedan. Like the CL coupe and the Odyssey, U.S. TL production adapts the basic Accord platform to suit the luxury Acura TL nameplate. Engines and transmissions are solely U.S.-sourced, and like the Odyssey, modular front and rear suspension modules have been designed to be grafted directly onto the chassis of these diverse vehicles.
Installing production of the TL at its Marysville, OH, plant in the U.S. permits Honda to avoid the vagaries of currency fluctuation - a primary consideration for all Japan-based transplant operations - resulting in a $5,000 cut from the previous Japan-made TL's price.
So if Honda needed any reinforcement that its "Global Regions" strategy is a long-term winner, the company can look to the TL as a clearcut symbol: The previous-generation TL couldn't be given away; dealers now tell us customers are lining up for this drastically re-priced "global" car.