Honda Manufacturing of Alabama announced to employees Thursday morning that the plant would return to 100 percent capacity by August. The plant is currently at 50 percent capacity.
“Our associates were pretty excited about it,” said Honda spokesman Mark Morrison. “They basically broke out in applause.”
The $1.5 billion Honda Manufacturing plant employs 4,000 people and is the exclusive North American producer of the Odyssey minivan, the Pilot SUV and the Ridgeline pickup.
The announcement came as a welcome surprise in part because production delays were first expected to last much longer, Morrison said.
“We knew it was going to continue through the summer months and we were hoping we’d be back up at full production by the end of the year,” Morrison said. “Now we know it will be up much earlier.”
The Lincoln plant, along with all the Honda facilities in North America, learned in March that the tsunami and earthquake devastation in Japan would slow production of certain vehicle parts. In the weeks that followed, North American plants started slowing production because of the parts shortage.
The Lincoln plant currently has employees working just three days a week.
Morrison said that production schedule is expected to continue through July 1, at which point workloads will gradually be increased.
Though the plant has been at 50 percent capacity, the facility has avoided layoffs, allowing employees to take training courses or vacation time when there is no work. The plant has also sent employees without work to help people in Calhoun County affected by the April tornado.
“On Mondays and Fridays we’ve been sending associates out to do relief work,” Morrison said.
The tsunami and earthquake in Japan may have slowed Honda’s production in Lincoln, but it has not deterred long-term plans to expand operations at the plant.
In March, Honda announced it would invest $94 million to expand the plant and create 20 jobs in the process. The project should be completed by 2012.
Earlier this month, Honda announced plans to create 20 more jobs at the plant by adding the Acura MDX luxury sport utility vehicle to its production lines by 2013.
Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561.