The 10 millionth U.S.-built Honda Accord rolled off the assembly line in Marysville on Thursday, a significant milestone for the auto manufacturer that employs nearly 14,000 workers in Ohio and is key to the regional economy.
The facility was considered a risk when Honda first started building cars there in 1982. Auto experts said the company now is an important contributor to the region’s economy as Ohio slowly tries to recapture thousands of manufacturing jobs lost during the Great Recession.
“There are several hundred suppliers in Ohio that rely on Honda to do business with and there’s a massive amount of economic value associated with all of that,” said Glenn Daehn, director of the Honda Partnership Program at the Ohio State Center for Automotive Research.
The Marysville facility alone employs about 1,500 in Clark and Champaign counties and about 1,200 across the rest of the Miami Valley. The plant can produce as many as 1,800 vehicles a day, and as many as 440,000 a year.
Honda’s recent investments at its U.S. manufacturing facilities amount to about $1.2 billion, according to information from the company.
The Accord produced Thursday was also the 20 millionth vehicle Honda has made overall in the U.S. The brand-new vehicle sat side-by-side with USA-001, a 1983 gray Accord that was the first built in Marysville in 1982. That historic vehicle was on loan from the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.
Jim Wehrman, senior vice president of Honda of America Manufacturing, has been with the company for about 26 years. A native of Shelby County, he said Honda took a risk when it decided to build a factory in Ohio 32 years ago. Volkswagen had made an unsuccessful attempt to build a manufacturing site in Pennsylvania, he said, but at that time no other foreign automakers were willing to make a similar wager.
“It had never been done before and the common knowledge was you couldn’t do it,” Wehrman said.
Since then Honda has become one of the region’s largest employers and has added a variety of operations in Troy, Anna, East Liberty, Russells Point and Raymond, Ohio. In 2012, the company estimated its payroll in the U.S. at $2 billion.
“The company we were in 1982 and the company we are today, it’s not even comparable,” Wehrman said.
Like many auto manufacturers, Honda is recovering after the industry took a major hit during the Great Recession.
A decade ago more than 31,000 Ohioans were working in the auto manufacturing industry, according to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number plunged to as few as 14,200 workers in 2009, but has crept up to more than 20,000 workers at the end of last year.
In 2013 Honda sold more than 1.5 million vehicles in the U.S., up 7 percent from the year before. That was just short of its record set in 2007.
“It’s not really at the volume it had been but it’s come back to where we’re running pretty much at full capacity right now,” Wehrman said.
Honda’s impact on central Ohio is important in other ways as well, Daehn said.
“The other thing that’s important about Honda is over the past several years, they’re really increased the amount of research, development, engineering and design that’s done in and around Marysville and they’re taking a lot of global leadership for what vehicles of the future look like,” Daehn said.
The 10 millionth Accord produced Thursday in Marysville will be sold, said Ron Lietzke, a spokesman for Honda.
“We’ve been building this for our customers and that’s where it’s going to go,” he said.
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