Honda's Midwest manufacturing plants begin EV conversion

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

Move over Accord, here comes Honda’s EV line.

Honda Motor Co. is transferring production of its iconic, internal combustion engine-powered Accord sedan from its long-time home in Marysville, Ohio, to its Greensburg, Indiana, assembly plant to make room for electric vehicle production starting in 2025. The move is a major step in Honda’s "Second Founding" as an all-electric brand.

The Japanese automaker is one of the world’s most aggressive mainstream auto brands in moving to an all-electric model lineup, and it’s speeding that transition at its U.S. based plants.

Marysville is part of what Honda calls its Ohio EV Hub, a sprawling network of four vehicle and battery manufacturing facilities across Ohio and Indiana where the Japanese brand is investing over $4 billion. While Honda is retooling production lines, the bulk of that investment will go to its new East Jefferson, Ohio, plant that will make batteries with partner LG Energy Solutions.

Honda has not yet revealed the EVs it will hammer together in Marysville, but it showed futuristic-looking Saloon and Space-Hub prototypes for its 0 Series EV model line at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Expect the first, Saloon-based EV to be a 2026 model off the reconstructed Marysville line. Honda’s first EV, the Prologue SUV, is being jointly produced with General Motors Co. in Mexico and arrives in dealerships this spring.

"Our EV Hub is playing an essential role for the evolution of EV production at Honda, in North America and globally,” said American Honda Executive Vice President Bob Nelson of a process that will provide learnings for plants across Honda’s global empire.

Marysville has symbolic significance for Honda as its first U.S.-based manufacturing plant. The company began making its gas-fired Accord sedan there in 1982, with it since becoming one of the most popular nameplates in the United States. The Accord will share a production line in Indiana with the CR-V SUV and compact Civic sedan. The ICE Acura Integra and TLX will remain in Marysville on a single, flexible production line capable of making EV or ICE vehicles.

The Ohio shake-up comes as consumer EV adoption in the United States is on the wane even as more battery-powered cars hit the market. A Gallup poll this month showed the proportion of prospective buyers of EVs has shrunk from 12% to 9% of the market. EV market leader Tesla Inc. has experienced sales declines and Ford Motor Co. has throttled back F-150 Lightning pickup truck production.

Honda’s goal is to sell only EVs by 2040, joining GM and Volkswagen AG (by 2035) as the most ambitious mainstream automakers. Other brands, like Japanese rival Toyota, don’t see broad consumer demand for EVs and are committed to building ICEs and plug-in hybrids. The consolidation of Honda’s Maryville production to one line is meant to build in flexibility so that Honda can make either ICE or EV vehicles depending on consumer taste.

Honda is confident that customers will ultimately adopt EVs.

“Internally at Honda, we talk about the Second Founding of Honda as a reset — a switching of our mind about embracing electric vehicles and making sure every associate has an opportunity to contribute to a fundamental change in Honda from an engine company to an electrified company,” John Hwang, product development leader for the Prologue EV, told The Detroit News this spring.

It’s a significant change for a company synonymous with some of the world’s best internal combustion engines — including the Honda engine in Max Verstappen’s Formula One-dominating Red Bull race car.


As part of its EV Hub, Honda’s Anna, Ohio, plant — which makes internal combustion engines — will convert to producing the Intelligent Power Unit containing the EV battery module serving as the main frame structure for the floor of Honda EVs produced in Maryville and (eventually) East Liberty, Ohio. The East Liberty plant makes the brand’s most popular vehicle, the ICE-powered CR-V.

Anna has been an ICE powerhouse for the company, producing everything from engines to transmissions, camshafts, crankshafts and other components.

While Honda is importing from Mexico its first EV, the Prologue (and sister Acura TDX), built on GM’s battery skateboard platform — the Japanese automaker has made it known it wants a lighter architecture. The Prologue weighs 5,500 pounds on a platform application meant for everything from small SUVs to 9,000-pound GMC Hummer pickups.

To that end, Anna is building a platform Honda calls “thin, light and wise.” It will be made with six, 6,000-ton high-pressure die cast machines standing over 31 feet tall — the biggest die-cast part Honda has ever made. To create space for IPU production, Anna transferred some ICE production to its Alabama Auto Plant.

Honda’s investment comes as the United Auto Workers union is ramping up a campaign to organize Honda workers — and other nonunion foreign transplants across the county. Honda emphasized that its Ohio EV Hub is an investment in American jobs as well at a time when many manufacturers are producing EVs in Mexico and China to cut costs.

"The establishment of our EV Hub is not simply an investment in retooling and equipment, we are investing in the Honda associates who will be taking on new responsibilities to lead us into the electrified future," said Nelson.

Honda’s culture prides itself on meeting engineering challenges and the company says its all-EV goal is not influenced by California government mandates that ban gas car sales by 20235. Indeed, Honda has said the state’s goals are unrealistic and has stayed firm about its internal 2040 goal.

“Honda philosophically has always been about protecting the environment … with the products we make,” Hwang told The News. “Our timeline is 2040 in North America to be fully zero carbon.”

Governments may press that commitment, with Simon Stiell, chief of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, emphasizing this week that the world has only two years to meet zero-carbon emissions goals and "save the world." With Honda EV production not ramping up until 2026, that goal is a challenge.

In addition to retooling Honda plants, the company with LG began construction this winter on the new, joint-venture, 2 million-square feet EV battery facility. That facility is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, with an annual capacity of about 40 GWh.

About two-thirds of Honda/Acuras sold in the United States are made here. The company employs 23,000 people across a dozen manufacturing plants.

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