Dan Gearino, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio –
DETROIT — Honda will build a new central Ohio factory to make the Acura NSX “supercar” that it will offer for sale worldwide.
Honda, which owns the Acura brand, made the announcement and revealed a preliminary version of the sports car yesterday at the North American International Auto Show. The car will go on sale in about three years.
“The U.S. will be the strong hub of our global business for the Acura brand,” said Takanobu Ito, Honda’s president and CEO.
The specific location of the plant and the number of employees that would work there were not disclosed. The company did not say whether the car would be built at a new free-standing plant or whether it would build an addition to an existing plant, such as its production facility in Marysville.
This marks the revival of a model Acura produced from 1990 to 2005 in Japan. At the time, the $90,000 price tag was high for Acura, but its high performance and reliability made it a bargain, said Bill Visnic, a senior editor at Edmunds.com.
“It was a Ferrari-type car for way less than Ferrari-type money,” he said. “It was in every way a groundbreaking and trendsetting car.”
A high-performance vehicle like that would be a niche product, which means only a small number of employees likely would be needed to build it. The previous generation of the NSX topped out with annual sales of 1,940 in 1991.
More important than the number of vehicles sold is the technology being developed for it, work that will occur in Ohio, said spokesman Ron Lietzke. For example, the NSX will have an all-wheel-drive hybrid system, a new kind of gas-electric hybrid that aims to provide high performance and functionality.
“Honda associates are up to the challenge of producing the new NSX for global customers with a high degree of craftsmanship,” Hidenobu Iwata, head of Honda’s North American manufacturing, said in a statement.
Honda also unveiled new designs for the Acura RDX crossover, which is assembled in Marysville, and a preliminary version of a compact sedan, the ILX, which will be built in Greensburg, Ind. Both of those vehicles will go on sale this spring.
The new RDX will feature improved horsepower and fuel economy. Dealers sold 15,196 of the model in 2011.
Meanwhile, the ILX will be the brand’s entry-level model, with a price point that likely will start at less than $30,000.
Acura sales suffered in 2011 because of the bad economy and the production disruption caused by the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which cut inventories. Sales fell 8 percent compared with the previous year.
Company executives are predicting they will sell 180,000 vehicles this year, a 45 percent increase.
Honda does not plan to ask for any government aid or incentives to help pay for the NSX plant. This is in line with Honda’s practice on previous expansions in its three decades of building cars in Ohio. The company is one of the state’s largest employers, with 13,400 workers.
“That’s good for Honda and good for all of us,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who attended the Detroit show.
He said that other companies can learn from the way Honda is expanding without seeking government money.