MARYSVILLE, OH – Production of the all-new ’14-model Accord Hybrid sedan is under way at Honda’s massive assembly plant here, marking the first time the automaker has built electrified vehicles in Ohio.
The new model, which will be sold nationwide, uses the same basic powertrain as the Accord Plug-In, except there’s no charging port available to top off the battery and the Plug In battery pack is five times the size, rated at 6.7 kWh compared with the Hybrid’s 1.3 kWh.
The $38,780 Accord Plug-In, imported from Japan, went on sale in the U.S. in January in just two markets, New York and California, with sales totaling 349 units so far, according to WardsAuto data. Honda says it has no plans for now to expand U.S. availability beyond those two states.
The Marysville-built Accord Hybrid boasts an industry-leading 50 mpg (4.7 L/100 km) city-cycle EPA fuel-economy rating and is being offered in three trim levels: base Hybrid ($29,155) midgrade EX-L ($31,905) and top-of-the-line Touring ($34,905).
Adrienne Hall, senior product planner-Honda North America, says about 40% of sales should go to the entry-level model, with 45% of volume soaked up by the EX-L version that includes such amenities as leather-trimmed seats, moonroof, center touchscreen and forward-collision and lane-departure warning.
About 15% of buyers are expected to order the fully loaded Touring model, which adds navigation, adaptive cruise control and the HomeLink wireless remote-activation system.
The Accord Hybrid, launched Sept. 6 at the 30-year-old, 3.9 million-sq.-ft. (362,000-sq.-m) Marysville assembly plant, is built on one of two lines nestled together in a unique inside-horseshoe configuration. Also produced here are the standard Accord coupe and sedan and Acura TL.
Adding the Accord Hybrid to the mix required an $18.8 million, 94,000-sq.-ft. (8,700-sq.-m) expansion that created room for battery-testing and specific parts-logistics operations.
The addition includes 11 new loading docks that leave capacity to increase production if needed. Although the facility runs more than a half-mile (1 km) end to end, there’s room on the grounds to extend the footprint farther, plant officials say.
The lithium-ion battery packs arrive at the Marysville facility from GS Yuasa subsidiary Blue Energy’s operations in Fukuchiyama City, Kyoto, Japan. The fully charged units then are placed on a test rig to make sure there are no defects and all connections are working properly.
The test cycle is recorded according to the vehicle identification number (VIN). If there are any performance issues later on, Honda will be able to precisely trace the pack’s production history.
The batteries finally are transported to the assembly line, where they are installed in Accord Hybrids through the rear-door opening and locked into position just aft of where the rear seats will be mounted.
During a media tour last Wednesday, the plant was preparing to build a batch of Accord Hybrids on the night shift, running tests on batteries and lining up batches of components that later would make their way to the assembly line.
Honda is reluctant to forecast sales or disclose output planning volumes for the model. Plant Manager Rob May says only that the Accord Hybrid is being batch-built here more than once a week, but not every day.
The Marysville facility is a highly integrated complex, complete with stamping, welding, paint and assembly operations. It is 18-1/2 hours from the time steel sheet enters the plant at one end and a completed vehicle emerges at the other.
Two cars roll off the line every minute, with 1,900 units built each day and 465,000 assembled annually, May says. The plant employs 4,600 workers and has a yearly operating budget of $800 million.
The Marysville operation exports to 10 countries and accounts for a leading 28% of Honda’s North American production. The automaker, which has invested $2.7 billion in the NAFTA region in the past three years, including $1 billion in Ohio, is on a drive to increase local sourcing of the vehicles it sells in the U.S.
More than 90% of the Hondas sold in the U.S. are made in North America, “and we’ll go to 95% as we ramp up with the Fit (small car) in Mexico and a new SUV there,” says Rick Schostek, senior vice president-Honda North America.
“By 2014, we expect to be a net exporter in North America,” he adds.
In addition to the two models going into Honda’s new plant in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico, the automaker previously announced plans to build a new-generation Acura NSX supercar at a new facility in Marysville beginning in 2015.