The Japanese-based automaker needs the extra workers to help with a previously announced expansion and keep up with increased demand, said Mark Morrison, spokesman for the Honda Lincoln plant. The hiring is part of $115 million the company will invest in the plant to increase production. The company projects production capacity at the Lincoln plant in 2013 will be 340,000 vehicles, an increase of 40,000 automobiles from current operations.
Morrison said boosts in vehicle sales plus the planned manufacture of the Acura MDX luxury SUV at the plant next year triggered the need for more workers and increased production. The plant will ramp up its production schedule in January.
"At Honda, we've seen our sales improve, especially an increase in the products we make in Alabama,” Morrison said. “As we prepare to add production next year of the Acura MDX into our operations, it is critical that we can meet the increase in customer demand with speed and overall flexibility”.
Honda officials previously announced the hiring of about 250 people as part of expansion efforts for the Acura MDX. The company also announced that $275 million will be invested in the expansion project.
The Lincoln plant currently employees about 4,000 people and is the sole North American producer of the Odyssey minivan, the Ridgeline pickup truck and the Pilot SUV.
The production changes plant administrators will implement in January include lengthening the workdays for employees. Employees will still have a 40-hour work week. However, instead of working eight hours a day, five days a week, employees will work 10 hours a day, four days a week. Morrison said the new work schedule will make production more flexible.
“We have to have the flexibility to more efficiently meet the needs of our customers,” he said.
Honda’s sales have improved significantly in recent months compared to those last year. According to the company’s numbers, American Honda Motor Company’s national sales increased 48 percent in June compared to the same month last year. May Honda automobile sales increased 47.6 percent compared to the same month last year.
"With robust inventories and great customer demand, it feels good to be back in the race," John Mendel, American Honda executive vice president of sales, said in a press release.
Dennis Virag, auto industry analyst with the Automotive Consulting Group, said Honda’s high sales are part of the overall improvement in the auto industry in the past year. The industry is still recovering after it tanked in 2008 when the recession hit.
“The industry in total is doing fairly well,” Virag said.
However, Honda’s improvement can also be contributed to the company making up for lost sales from last year, Virag said.
“Honda is playing catch up,” Virag sai. “You have to remember that both Honda and Toyota were hit severely last year by the tsunami.”
Honda’s sales dipped across the board last year due to an interruption in supply lines from a tsunami and earthquake that struck Japan in April 2011. While there were no layoffs, Honda decreased workloads for several months last year at its North American plants, including the Lincoln facility.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star