Despite pandemic challenges, Alabama Honda plant begins production on new vehicle models

Local News

LINCOLN, Ala. (WIAT) — Despite supply chain issues and chip shortage across the country, this week Honda announced it is starting mass production of two vehicle models at the Lincoln, Alabama facility.

According to the manufacturer, the 2022 Honda Passport will be arriving at dealerships this winter. The plant has also started production on the first Honda TrailSport models with more off-road capabilities.

The Passport TrailSport and Pilot TrailSport will be built exclusively in Alabama.

“Any new model launch, any redesign is a challenge for Honda. In this environment with COVID, supply chain issues, chip issues worldwide. It is a challenge, these are the kinds of challenges we accept as a team. We do really well in this environment,” said Bob Schwyn, the VP and Plant Lead at the Alabama Auto Plant.

During the pandemic, some auto manufacturers had to slow or temporarily stop production at facilities.
A worldwide shortage of electronic chips also made it difficult for the industry.

“It is getting better. I can’t personally predict the end of the chip situation, but we’ve got global operations and north American purchasing operations that are focused on it every hour of every day, every week to keep us running,” said Schwyn.

In Lincoln, Schwyn said the plant is ready to go full steam. It produces 1,500 vehicles per day. In a competitive labor market, the company continues to hire.

The plant recently celebrated 20 years in Lincoln. Mayor Lew Watson said job opportunities have helped the city grow over.

“The addition of Honda being here has also created a housing boom in our city. We are already a growing city and this just added fuel to the fire. We have several subdivisions under construction at this time. We also have been contacted about additional family units being built,” Watson said.

Honda employs about 4,500 employees at the Lincoln plant. Other supporting businesses have also added jobs and money to the local economies.

“There is an 18 billion dollar impact to the state of Alabama and we help create 45,000 jobs between us and our supply base. We are proud of that and producing a vehicle like this new passport helps maintain that momentum,” said Schwyn.

As Honda and other companies move towards manufacturing electric vehicles, Schwyn envisions a lot of changes over the next two decades.

Honda is working with the state of Alabama and area schools to recruit new people into manufacturing.

“If they want to be able to program robots, if they want to work with lasers, if they want to just program computers, those opportunities exist and as we transition to electrified vehicles, those types of jobs will grow even more,” said Schwyn.

The Lincoln plant has the capacity to manufacture 340,000 vehicles and engines each year.

Alabama associates have been producing the Honda Passport at the Lincoln plant since 2018. In addition to the Passport, Pilot, and TrailSport models, the Lincoln plant also produces the Honda Odyssey and Honda Ridgeline pickup trucks.

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