Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s forthcoming manufacturing plant in Alabama is on schedule for Job One before year's end, says Koki Hirashima, president of Honda of America Manufacturing Inc.

Equipment in the plant is 70% installed and hiring has begun, he says. Honda plans to fill its 120,000-unit vehicle capacity by building its popular Odyssey minivan. Honda likely will bring another product to the plant in the future, Mr. Hirashima says.

The plant, with no excess capacity, is the first to open after implementation of its ultra-flexible Global New Manufacturing System. The Odyssey's V-6 engines will be built there.

Honda fully utilizes its 2.7 million-unit global capacity. North America is Honda's primary market, comprising about 50% of its sales.

For the launch of the '01 Civic, East Liberty, OH, not Japan, served as the “mother plant,” a trend Mr. Hirashima says will continue.

Honda for the first time will build vehicles outside of Japan for export to the home market. Next year's new CR-V sport/utility vehicle will be built in Honda's U.K. and Japan plants, exporting to Japan and the U.S. The Civic SI hatchback will be built alongside the CR-V at the U.K. plant for export to Honda's primary markets.

The improved system allowed Honda to smoothly transition the '02 Acura RSX from its Suzuka facility to its Sayama plant five months before launch.