Honda Motor Co. plans to stop making motorcycles in the United States next year and transfer the work to Japan, pulling the plug on its first U.S. plant.
The 330,000-square-foot (30,000 square meter) Marysville, Ohio, plant, built in 1979, turns out large Gold Wing touring and VTX cruiser motorcycles. The work will be shifted to a plant in Japan that can produce bikes more efficiently.
The Ohio plant employs 450 workers. Honda said there will be no layoffs when production ends in spring 2009. The workers will remain with the company, helping produce cars, trucks, engines and parts and filling other jobs at Honda's operations in west-central Ohio, the company said.
"There were a lot of people who felt disappointment," said plant manager Jan Gansheimer, noting that many employees are motorcycle enthusiasts who have spent much of their careers at the plant. "There were some emotional considerations."
But realizing it was a business decision and knowing they would not lose their jobs made it easier to accept, she said.
Last year, the plant produced about 44,000 Gold Wing touring and VTX cruiser bikes.
Gansheimer said production of 120 motorcycles a day will continue for now. A decision on whether to phase out production and transfer workers gradually or do it all at once has not been made.
Honda said motorcycle production at the Marysville plant and at the Hamamatsu factory in Japan will be consolidated at an expanded motorcycle plant in Kumamoto, Japan, in 2009.
The larger motorcycles currently made at Marysville and the medium-sized ones produced at Hamamatsu will be manufactured together under one roof.
"This move allows us to improve the competitiveness and appeal of our products by applying the latest technologies and production systems at one efficient location," said Akio Hamada, president and chief executive of Honda of America.
The Japanese plant will be capable of producing up to 600,000 motorcycles a year. Capacity at the Marysville plant is 75,000.
No decision has been made about what to do with the Marysville plant.
The Motorcycle Industry Council estimates that 1.11 million motorcycles were sold in the United States in 2007, down from 1.19 million in 2006.
Council spokesman Mike Mount said rising energy costs may be one reason for the sales dip, but noted that motorcycle sales steadily increased for 14 years leading up to 2006, which was the best year for sales in 30 years.
Honda spokesman Ed Miller said the company is confident that sales will increase as the economy strengthens.
Honda says it holds about 25 percent of the U.S. market in sales of motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and scooters.
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