Honda said Wednesday it will invest $85 million at its assembly plant in East Liberty, Ohio, so it can boost production of its Acura MDX — the brand’s best-selling model.
Japan’s No. 2 automaker already produces the MDX at a plant in Lincoln, Ala., but needs the ability to increase its production capacity to meet demand for the popular, three-row crossover.
To make that happen, Honda plans to install new welding equipment, new tooling in the body shop and conveyor equipment at the East Liberty plant.
Honda said the investment will help it sell more trucks and crossovers produced in North America, including the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot, which is scheduled to be launched this summer.
“This gives us an opportunity to keep MDX as the best-selling luxury SUV in its class,” said John Mendel, Executive Vice President of American Honda Motor Co.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of the MDX for the Acura brand. Acura sold 65,603 MDX’s in 2014, a 23.7 percent increase over the prior year. Sales of the model accounted for 39 percent of Acura’s total U.S. sales last year.
For now, the investment won’t lead to any additional jobs, Mendel said. But increasing sales for all of the company’s crossovers and trucks could lead to an employment increase in the future.
The automaker employs about 2,400 at the East Liberty plant, where it can make a total of 240,000 vehicles annually.
For now, the plant’s total production isn’t expected to increase, even as the automaker begins building the MDX in 2017, Mendel said, “but the potential always exists.”
Honda also makes the 5-passenger Acura RDX crossover, Honda Crosstour and the Honda CR-V small crossover at the East Liberty Plant.
The automaker makes the Honda Pilot, Odyssey and Ridgeline at its Lincoln, Ala., plant, which has an annual capacity of 340,000.
Honda is planning to reveal a redesigned version of the Pilot at the Chicago Auto Show on Thursday, and expects that sales of that crossover will also increase.
“It will be our most powerful and refined Pilot yet,” Mendel said. “We think there is certainly an opportunity to increase sales over the outgoing model.”
By adding capacity for the MDX in East Liberty, the automaker can make more of both models as industry sales of crossovers continue to increase.
“This move is going to increase our manufacturing flexibility in North America,” Mendel said.