More than three decades after Honda Motor Co. first built an Accord sedan at its Marysville, Ohio, factory in 1982, humans are still an integral part of the assembly process -- and that's unlikely to change anytime soon.
Even as doom-and-gloom reports suggest robots are poised to replace human labor and automotive upstarts like Tesla Inc. aim to largely remove people from the production line, workers keep toiling side-by-side with machines in Marysville. And Honda's approach is working: The Accord won the prestigious North American Car of Year award at last week's Detroit auto show.
"We can't find anything to take the place of the human touch and of human senses like sight, hearing and smell," Tom Shoupe, the COO of Honda's Ohio manufacturing unit, said in an interview.
Honda isn't alone. Rival Toyota Motor Corp. uses just a handful of robots on the Camry final assembly line at its plant in Georgetown, Ky., and has no plans to add more, according to Mark Boire, chief production engineer. Markus Schaefer, production chief at Mercedes-Benz, in 2016 said the carmaker was de-automating and relying more on humans to install the endless array of options that luxury customers demand.
The carmakers' approach to running their final assembly lines casts doubt on studies suggesting robots are on the verge of wiping out massive numbers of manufacturing jobs. A McKinsey Global Institute report from December, for example, found that as many as 375 million workers globally may need to switch professions by 2030 due to advancements in automation.