Forty years ago, American Honda Motor Co. built an assembly plant in rural Marysville, Ohio, and began a trend that would alter the trajectory of the U.S. auto industry — and contribute to a modern-day problem.
It wasn't just that company founder Soichiro Honda had chosen to build an assembly plant in the U.S. — the first Asian automaker to do so, following earlier and less successful European efforts from Rolls-Royce in the 1920s and Volkswagen in the 1970s. It was where he chose to do it: in rural central Ohio, where cornfields far outnumbered subdivisions and land was cheap and plentiful.
Honda's pioneering new factory meant that many of his cars would no longer have to be imported. But its location 30 miles outside Columbus also meant that many employees would commute long distances from cities and towns across a vast region.