Honda is boosting its production in North America by around 200,000 units by opening its new $800-million assembly site in Celaya, Mexico. The site will build the 2015 Honda Fit subcompact hatchback and crossover variant. Honda's annual North American production capacity will surge to 1.92 million units -- representing 95 percent of all Honda and Acura vehicles sold in the region.
The Honda Fit assembly site will be complemented by a $470 million continuously variable transmission plant that will open in late 2015 on the same grounds. It will have an initial capacity of 350,000 units, increasing to a peak of 700,000. "Having a new overseas factory, with a new vehicle, and a new transmission factory, this is something we haven't done before, and this is a new challenge for us," Honda chief executive Takanobu Ito said in a media roundtable.
"The challenge is to make this into a highly profitable business." Honda’s Celaya site features several factory innovations like a high-speed servo stamping press and quicker die changes that cuts stamping times by 40 percent. Ito said the new press was recently installed at Honda's Marysville site in Ohio and will be added to its Alabama plant later.
The Celaya also features a new body-welding system that cuts the number of robots and jigs needed, while increasing the number of weld points – allowing the carmaker to make a lighter and stronger body-in-white at a lower capital cost.
The Celaya paint shop is also doing a "coat-bake-coat-coat-bake" process, thus getting rid of a primer coat layer and one round of baking, which is claimed to have resulted in improvement in paint finish and a 40-percent reduction in energy consumption. "We have many factories in North America, and this new factory has the most new technology," Ito remarked.
"Our new plant in Mexico is based on the Honda Company Principle of maintaining a global viewpoint to supply products of the highest quality, yet at a reasonable price, for worldwide customer satisfaction," said Ito. "In Celaya, we can see these core values in action, with a commitment to the highest quality and efficiency and a focus on creating joy for our customers." [source: Honda]