TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan - Honda Motor Co. plans to stay relatively small and independent by delivering new products from flexible factories with a minimum of investment, said President Hiroyuki Yoshino.
Honda may even become a supplier of engines and components to other automakers, he said at a manufacturing conference here.
'Many see size as the key to survival,' he said. 'We believe that success in the future has little to do with size, and Honda is totally committed to pursuing its future as an independent company.'
Honda has a global penetration plan relying on 'small-born' factories, which can profitably produce 10,000 to 30,000 vehicles annually. One example is the Tochigi, Japan, plant that produces the NSX and S2000 sports cars.
On a larger scale, Honda's minivan plant in Canada was built for only $210 million, a fraction of a traditional assembly plant's cost.
A greenfield plant in Alabama will produce 120,000 engines and 120,000 vehicles starting in 2002.
That plant will cost only $400 million, he said. In the future, Honda plans to become more flexible by replacing all single-model assembly lines with flexible lines that can produce several models. In Japan, Honda already is shutting down single-model assembly lines at plants in Sayama and Suzuka.
Honda also could become a supplier of engines to other companies, a move not possible before because of technical differences. 'Our engine design is kind of unique because of the rotational direction of the crankshaft,' Yoshino said.
'As we design new engines, we are changing our rotation direction to make it more standard, so it may be possible to do such (deals) in the future.'