Honda today held a ground-breaking ceremony for its new $US550m vehicle plant, to be known as Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, LLC (HMIN), and confirmed weekend media reports that the new plant’s 2,000 workers will build the Civic sedan when volume production begins in autumn 2008.

HMIN’s first president will be Yuzo Uenohara, previously senior vice president at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama.

Honda first announced plans to build the new Indiana plant in June 2006, with an annual production capacity of 200,000 vehicles. In an effort to meet strong customer demand, site preparation for the new plant is complete and basic construction has already begun on a 1,700-acre tract in Decatur County, Indiana, near the town of Greensburg, 50 miles southeast of Indianapolis.

“In Indiana we will create an efficient and flexible manufacturing environment that is a great place for everyone to work,” said Koichi Kondo, president & CEO of American Honda Motor and COO of Honda’s North American regional operations.

HMIN will be Honda’s seventh vehicle plant in North America and one of 17 major Honda manufacturing facilities there. It will help to boost the automaker’s total North American automobile production capacity from 1.4m to more than 1.6m units in 2008, employment in North America to more than 37,000 associates and capital investment in North America to more than $US9bn.

HMIN began advertising on 21 February for a number of non-production positions in the fields of automotive engineering, purchasing, information technology and administration and has received more than 6,000 responses. The hiring process for production workers will begin late in 2007.

Major production processes performed at the Indiana plant will include stamping, welding, painting, plastic injection moulding, sub-assembly and final assembly.

Honda will attempt to limit the environmental impact of the new plant, including ISO 14001 international environmental management certification, and advanced methods of energy and emission reduction with the goal to be a ‘zero waste to landfill’ facility.

Honda built more than 1.16m Honda and Acura passenger cars and trucks in North America last year, or more than 77% of the more than 1.5m vehicles it sold to US consumers in 2006.

The Civic sedans produced in Indiana will have fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines manufactured in Anna, Ohio.

The vast majority of parts for the vehicles made at the Indiana plant will be manufactured by Honda’s existing base of more than 600 North American suppliers. Honda purchased more than $17.6bn in parts and materials from suppliers in North America last year.