An new light truck model based on Honda's innovative Model X concept vehicle will be produced by Honda of America Manufacturing at its East Liberty (Ohio) Plant beginning late this year.

"This decision demonstrates the high level of flexibility within our North American manufacturing operations," said Koki Hirashima, president of Honda of America Mfg. "The production of this innovative light truck model will further expand our manufacturing capabilities beyond our current production of passenger cars, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and engines."

The East Liberty Plant was chosen following a review of the company's global manufacturing capabilities. The new model will be produced on the same assembly line as the Civic sedan, coupe and GX natural gas vehicle, utilising Honda's flexible New Manufacturing System.

Adopted by ELP in conjunction with the launch of the new Civic in fall of 2000, the New Manufacturing System provides for faster, more efficient and flexible manufacturing capabilities and will help to create a smooth launch for the new model late this year.

Production capacity at ELP is expected to remain at the current level of 240,000 vehicles per year. Other plants in Honda's Global Supply Network will offset any reduction in Civic production at ELP to meet demand.

The new truck, targeted at young buyers and boasting a number of unique features including a pillar-less body side and open-wide 'suicide' rear doors, is expected to reach Honda dealerships late this year.

"The Model X is a radical departure from traditional automotive design that we think will appeal very strongly to a new generation of car buyers. It is an important new addition to our growing family of innovative light truck models," said Tom Elliott, executive vice president of American Honda.

While the official name has yet to be announced, the new vehicle will closely resemble the multi-functional Model X design concept introduced last year at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The exterior is a simple and highly functional two box shape surrounding a rugged and versatile interior, designed for maximum utility to accommodate items such as surfboards, mountain bikes, snowboards.

Honda began assembling motorcycles in America in 1979, with car manufacturing starting in 1982. The company now has 11 manufacturing plants and three R&D centres across the continent.