Honda has begun hiring staff for the new $US550m vehicle plant it is constructing near Greensburg.

The initial trawl is for non-production positions in the fields of automotive engineering, purchasing, information technology and administration. Recruitment of production workers begins later this year.

Honda announced on 28 June last year that it would build a new plant with an annual production capacity of 200,000 vehicles powered by fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines. Site preparation at the site northwest of Greensburg is well under way.

Ultimately, the company plans to hire 2,000 people for the Greensburg plant, with the vast majority to be production workers.

Greensburg will be a compete vehicle assembly plant with stamping, body welding, plastic injection moulding, sub-assembly processes, painting and final assembly. The plant is being built on a 1,700-acre site in Decatur County adjacent to rail lines and Interstate highway 74.

Volume production of a 2009-model vehicle is scheduled to begin in autumn 2008. Honda hasn’t yet identified the vehicle to be made, except that it will feature fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines manufactured in Anna, Ohio.

The vast majority of parts for the vehicles will be manufactured by Honda’s US supply base.

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

The new Indiana plant will be the automaker’s sixth vehicle assembly plant in North America and one of its 17 major plants in North America.