Honda today is celebrating the 25th anniversary of manufacturing in Canada. Don’t expect any parties.
“We hope the worst is behind us, but you never know these days,” says Honda Canada executive vice-president Jerry Chenkin, here primarily to talk about the upcoming 2012 Honda CR-V compact sport-utility vehicle.
Worst? Honda manufacturing in North America right now is running at about 50 per cent of capacity. A parts shortage in the wake of flooding in Thailand has hit Honda hard, with certain electronic components in short supply around the world. Honda’s Alliston, Ont., plant has the capacity to build 390,000 vehicles a year, but is churning out half that right now.
In January, Honda will also start building the 2012 CR-V in Alliston. The on-sale date of Honda Canada’s second best-selling model – 25,000 will be retailed in Canada this year – has been pushed back to January, though no one at Honda will commit completely to that date. The original plan was to launch the new CR-V this fall, but the earthquake and tsunami crisis in Japan scotched that timeline.
The Alliston manufacturing story is getting lost in all this bad news. Since opening, that plant has produced about 5.4 million vehicles, 80 per cent of which have been exported. That plant certainly helps Canada’s trade balance and employment numbers. With the CR-V coming to Alliston, Chenkin says Honda has added 400 jobs to the plant. He adds that 90 per cent of Honda Canada’s sales volume will be built in North America as of January.
Honda has been hit with plenty of criticism for recent product decisions. That said, Honda has made a commitment to building assembly plants in the markets where its vehicles are sold in volume – Canada included.
Some of Honda’s key rivals, Hyundai and Kia in particular, do not build anything in Canada, even though Hyundai alone is now selling more vehicles in Canada than Honda and Kia is catching up fast. Worth noting on this 25th anniversary.
One last thing. Honda Canada says the 2012 CR-V, when it arrives, will almost certainly not come with a price increase at all. The 2011 model starts at $26,290.