When you talk about the legacy of Honda manufacturing in America for 25 years, you might as well be talking about Joe Nowak.
Nowak has nothing to do with Honda - but Honda has had something to do with him.
Explaining Nowak's background would take half a page. He's a Detroit guy: Ford transmissions, Kelsey-Hayes, MascoTech. Now he runs Metaldyne's chassis group from New Castle, Ind., where Metaldyne bought DaimlerChrysler's old chassis components plant this year.
A couple of years ago, when the future of the New Castle plant and its 1,200 employees began to look doubtful, Metaldyne dispatched Nowak and his team to look into buying the place. Nowak drove to the plant in his BMW. The workers there had his car towed. If it wasn't built by the UAW in America, he was informed, it can't sit in the parking lot. The Metaldyne team became careful about where they parked.
Two years later, in September 2004, Metaldyne's New Castle plant has a new outlook, a new labor agreement and new investment. And most important, it has new customers. Among them is its first Asian transplant automaker, although not Honda. At least, not yet.
But you can see Honda's legacy in all of this.
The workers who towed Nowak's car would argue that if Honda never had come to America, their jobs never would have been in jeopardy.
The truth of the matter: Had Honda never come, Metaldyne never would have come to New Castle's rescue.
Honda did not come to destroy the American auto industry. It came to become a part of it.