Honda Motor Co. is expected to unveil plans this week for a new U.S. assembly plant near Birmingham, Ala.
The company would not confirm the plan late last week nor discuss the nature of the project, known as Operation Bingo. But industry observers believe Honda plans to build sport-utilities for Honda and Acura.
The plant would be Alabama's second: Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. builds sport-utilities in Vance, southwest of Birmingham.
Honda has been searching quietly for a site for its fifth North American auto plant for months. Local reports last week in Alabama said Honda was leaning toward a site in Lincoln, about 40 miles east of Birmingham.
A source familiar with Honda's search said the company also has held options through an intermediary on 2,700 acres of farmland near Champaign, Ill.
The Alabama plant would be Honda's first U.S. auto production site outside Ohio. In addition to its two auto assembly plants there, Honda builds vehicles in Alliston, Ontario, and El Salto, Mexico.
Honda is preparing to build an all-new sport-utility called the MAV, based on the Odyssey minivan, in Alliston for the 2001 model year. But that plant is using all available capacity just to satisfy strong demand for the Odyssey.