The first Japanese 'transplant' plant to build a car in America has turned 25.

A quarter century after building that first '83 model year Accord, 5,300 workers at Honda's Marysville Auto Plant daily churn out 1,800 cars and light trucks.

The Accord - now in sedan and coupe forms - remains the core product but the two-line, 440,000 unit a year facility now also makes the Acura TL luxury sedan and Acura RDX sport utility vehicle. Later this month, the plant will hit another milestone - production of the nine-millionth vehicle.

The US is the most important market for the Accord by far, with sales of more than 300,000 units to the end of September, mostly built in Marysville. The US-built models are the 'wide' version, also made in Thailand for sale in Asia and sold in Japan as the Inspire. There is also a 'narrow' Accord Euro which is sold instead of or alongside the US model in some markets and imported into the US as an Acura model.

Nearly 80% of all Honda and Acura vehicles sold in America are built at one of the automaker's six plants in North America.

Honda of America Mfg was established near Marysville to begin motorcycle manufacturing in 1979 and the success of that start-up quickly led that same year to the then-bold decision to build a car plant as well. At the time, the company was still a relative newcomer to the car business - the Accord only became its second core model after the Civic in 1976 - and just a fraction the size of Japan's established automakers.

Honda claims the Marysville plant introduced many new concepts to the US auto industry, including just-in-time parts delivery, quick die changes in metal stamping, rolling model changes to launch new vehicles without stopping production and a high level of flexible model production.

Honda's automotive experience in Ohio became the model for Honda globally, a spokesman said, in terms of local production, developing a local supplier network and recognising the importance of working closely with communities.

As the first Accord sedans began rolling off the line on 1 November 1982, Honda workers (called 'associates') who were building cars in small numbers with nearly identical content and in only a few colours also had little manufacturing experience. In the last two months of 1982, fewer than 1,000 cars were produced as the workforce focused on mastering car-building skills. By the end of 1982, they were making 160 cars per day.

The Accord was a much simpler product then, said Tim Hines, who was among the first associates at the auto plant. "While getting ready for mass production, we were producing maybe six cars per day, really focusing on assuring quality on every part of the vehicles," Hines said. "Those were perfect cars, because we were learning to build quality first, and then the product."

"The Marysville Auto Plant may be 25 years old on the outside, but it is a new plant on the inside," said plant manager Sam Harpest. "It has always been changing, and there isn't a more flexible plant in the industry with our level of quality and productivity."

At one point during the recent launch of the fully redesigned '08 Accord sedan and coupe, production of the old and new models overlapped during the transition. "To the credit of our associates, this team carried out the most complicated model launch in our history," Harpest said. "No other plant in America has the flexibility and experienced workforce to build six different vehicles at the same time."

A seventh Honda plant, in Indiana, will begin operations in autumn 2008. The additional production of 200,000 Civics per year at that plant will help boost Honda's total North American automobile production capacity to more than 1.6m units in 2008 (including a plant in Alliston, Ontario, in Canada), employment in North America to more than 37,000 associates and capital investment in North America to more than $US9bn.

Honda annually purchases more than $17.6bn in parts and materials from US suppliers.

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