Honda Motor Co. will shift all global production of Odyssey minivans this month to its 3 year-old plant in Lincoln, Ala., phasing the vehicle out of its factory in Alliston, Ontario.
The Alabama plant will take full responsibility for the Odyssey as Honda launches the redesigned 2005 model.
"It's a very big challenge for us," said Masaaki Kato, CEO of Honda Manufacturing of Alabama LLC, the Lincoln subsidiary.
Alabama began building Odysseys in 2001 to augment production in Canada. Since then, Honda has been steadily increasing the role of the Lincoln unit.
Lincoln also began producing the Pilot SUV in conjunction with the Canadian plant.
But Kato, who spoke to an audience here Wednesday, said that with more responsibility comes greater challenges. In the past, when Alabama launched a model, the Canadian operation typically had already launched and debugged the model. That plant sent engineers to provide assistance for the Alabama launches.
This time, Alabama will launch the Odyssey without that benefit.
To prepare, the Alabama plant sent associates from its integrated engine operations to Japan to participate in assembling the Odyssey engines on a production line there.
Kato also sent 120 associates to the company's New Model Center in Japan to participate in the minivan's research and development project. The workers requested hundreds of changes in the plans for manufacturing the vehicle, according to Kato.
"As a result," he said, "I feel very good about our ability to launch an all-new product with the highest quality."