Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, or HMA, has for nearly a year been expanding its facility to incorporate the production of the 2014 Acura MDX luxury sports utility vehicle in the coming months. The project has already created hundreds of jobs at the plant, and some automotive industry experts say the need for parts for the vehicle could eventually create more business and possibly jobs for surrounding auto suppliers.
If that turns out to be true, Honda's not speculating on it. The company, which has yet to set a specific date for when production of the Acura MDX will begin this year, cannot currently discuss its supply plans for the new vehicle, HMA spokesman Mark Morrison wrote in an email to The Star.
“This is common as automakers try to keep information about a new model confidential until it is close to mass production or its on-sale date,” Morrison wrote.
However, the addition of a new vehicle model to a production facility is bound to bring some type of economic benefit to automotive suppliers, some experts say. The Lincoln plant currently is the sole producer of the Odyssey minivan, Pilot SUV and Ridgeline pickup. According to statistics from the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Honda plant has 131 auto suppliers for those vehicles. Of those, 37 are located in Calhoun, Etowah, Talladega and St. Clair counties and account for up to 3,450 jobs.
“Certainly you’ll see a boost,” said Bill Visnic, auto analyst and senior editor for Edmonds.com. “But you won’t see the full potential of it for some time.”
Visnic said it will take time for Honda to work out all the kinks in its supply chain resulting from moving production of the Acura MDX to Lincoln. The vehicle is currently produced at a Honda plant in Canada.
“When you change the sourcing of a vehicle from one place to another, it takes some time for the changes to take effect in the local economy,” Visnic said. “They’ve already set aside sourcing of supply to work in one place but over time, they will tweak that formula for local sourcing.”
Dennis Virag, auto industry analyst with the Automotive Consulting Group, agreed with Visnic that the new vehicle could stimulate business for area suppliers.
“Generally, when a manufacturer adds a new product to a facility, it does mean more business to local suppliers,” Virag said. “Sometimes it’s just the supplier providing a part and sometimes I think it helps the whole supply base.”
The addition of the Acura MDX will eventually benefit the entire state, said Steve Sewell, executive vice president for the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, which works to attract and maintain industry in the state.
“It’s extremely positive for the auto industry and the state because it’s such an important product now being made in Alabama,” Sewell said. “It’s another stamp of approval for Alabama — it shows that marquee companies can be successful here.”
The Acura MDX is one of Honda’s more popular products and was the top selling model of the Acura line in January with 2,575 vehicles sold.
"Acura's newest products continue to drive our sales momentum as we begin a new year," said Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales, in a Friday press release. “With the positive reception of the all-new Acura MDX prototype in Detroit, and the upcoming launch of our new flagship RLX sedan, Acura is poised for even greater success in 2013."
Sewell also said the MDX will be a boon for some area auto suppliers.
“Anytime you’re adding to the product mix, that’s positive as well … it means stability,” Sewell said. “I’m not sure about supplier growth, but it means stability for the supply chain today and puts them in a better position for the future.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.