Honda Motor Co. will stop second-shift production on one assembly line at its flagship Marysville, Ohio, complex in August so the factory can be refurbished and retooled to make electrified vehicles.
The Japanese automaker will reassign employees who aren't assigned to work on the retooling to other roles so there won't be any layoffs. The company declined to identify electrified vehicles that will be made in Ohio.
Even as car sales fall and Detroit automakers pare their sedan lineups, the suspension of the shift at the home of the Accord, Accord Hybrid, CR-V, Acura ILX and Acura TLX shouldn't be seen as any kind of retreat from the sedan business, said Henio Arcangeli, senior vice president at American Honda Motor Co., noting that its cars are off to a good start this year.
"It's not really the same thing, because our car business still remains very, very strong," he said in an interview at the New York auto show. "It's just the situation, looking at near term as well as looking at long term, we felt the right idea was to take a break on second shift so we can do some retooling and prepare for the future."
The process will take "a few years," said spokesman Sage Marie, but the company doesn't anticipate increasing imports to make up for the lost production, because other lines can "flex up" as needed. Electrified vehicles can be anything from a mild hybrid to a fully electric model. Last year, such autos accounted for less than 5 percent of the U.S. market, but Arcangeli said that share will likely keep growing — but slowly and steadily, not suddenly and sharply.
The automaker has three Hondas and three Acuras that are currently electrified: The Clarity, which is offered as a plug-in hybrid, battery-electric or fuel cell vehicle, as well as the Accord hybrid and Insight hybrid. Honda's goal is that by 2030, two-thirds of its global corporate output will be electrified in some form.
"The good news is that we have all three versions across the portfolio — hydrogen, battery only, plug-in hybrid — as well as regular hybrid," Arcangeli said. "I think the jury's still out in terms of the technology that's going to work out in the marketplace. So we've got our toe in all the different technologies so that we'll be able to pick the right technology."