Keep on Truckin'?

With fuel prices rising, Honda of America Mfg. Inc. is beginning to rethink its stance regarding on-site suppliers at its vehicle assembly plants. Charles Ernst, vice president and plant manager at Honda Mfg. of Alabama LLC, says just because the auto maker has not established a supplier park yet doesn't mean it is something we shouldn't consider. When planning began for Honda's newest North American

With fuel prices rising, Honda of America Mfg. Inc. is beginning to rethink its stance regarding on-site suppliers at its vehicle assembly plants.

Charles Ernst, vice president and plant manager at Honda Mfg. of Alabama LLC, says just because the auto maker has not established a supplier park yet “doesn't mean it is something we shouldn't consider.”

When planning began for Honda's newest North American plant in Lincoln, AL, fuel prices ranged from $0.90-$1.05 a gallon, Ernst says at a manufacturing conference.

“But now with fuel prices up, I know I'm hearing from my purchasing and logistics side that we're being hit with some fuel surcharges from some of our trucking firms — and of course that wasn't in the budget,” he says.

One possible glitch to establishing supplier parks at its North American plants would be Honda's somewhat vertical integration. For instance, it casts its own engine blocks and heads and performs suspension subassembly in-house.

“Logically, if anything would come out of that, then I'd have to find another use for (our workers) to keep them gainfully employed,” says Ernst of Honda's 4,400- strong staff.

Meanwhile, Ernst tells Ward's Lincoln could produce Honda's new Ridgeline compact sport/utility-pickup if demand were to increase rapidly.

Ridgeline currently is built solely at Honda's Alliston, Ont., Canada, plant, but Alliston and Lincoln both produce the Pilot SUV and Lincoln took over production of the Odyssey minivan from Alliston last year.

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