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OM in the News: Honda Revs Up Plants in the US

December 23, 2011

When discussing global OM issues in Ch.2, the news that Honda is shifting a major chunk of its manufacturing to the US over the next 2 years is noteworthy. The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 21, 2011) reports that the 63-year-old company is accelerating its move away from Japan after two huge challenges: natural disasters and the yen’s gain of 40% to the dollar since 2007.  (The yen was 78 to the dollar this week, compared to 120 a few years ago). Honda plans to  grow to 2 million cars  in N. America, up from 1.29 million last year. This is to be done by building a new factory in Celaya, Mexico and expanding all 7 existing US plants.

With the expansion, Honda will export 200,000 to 300,000 vehicles a year from N. America, a tenfold increase, while reducing exports from its Japanese plants by 50%.  Because of the strong yen, “It is virtually impossible to make money on exporting vehicles from Japan in the short and medium term”, says the president of American Honda. For the US, the move means good news: thousands of new auto-related jobs and a boost for US suppliers that make components for Honda. The Greensburg, Indiana, plant alone will go from 100,000 to 200,000 Civics per year and add 1,000 jobs.

“It’s almost an economic necessity that they co-locate exports outside of Japan”, adds an industry consultant. “You can expect others to follow”. Today,  37% of Honda’s global production is in N. America: this will grow to 50% after expansion.

Toyota, likewise, has begun making its Corolla in Mississippi and is looking to expand its Baja, Mexico factory. Both firms saw earnings drop 50% this quarter.

Discussion questions:

1. Why are many foreign auto makers now expanding in the US?

2. What is the risk to Honda of transferring a large part of capacity offshore?

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