Honda’s North American Corporate Unit Shifting to Ohio

Honda Motor Co., the first Japanese automaker to build cars in the U.S., is consolidating corporate operations for North America in Ohio and setting up a regional support services unit there to boost efficiency.

Honda North America Inc., now based in Torrance, California, will move to Marysville, Ohio, effective April 1, the company said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. About 50 employees, including senior executives from Torrance, will relocate to Marysville as a result, said Jeffrey Smith, a spokesman for the Tokyo-based carmaker. Torrance will remain Honda’s U.S. sales and marketing base, he said.

“Honda has been giving North America more and more responsibility for designing and developing vehicles, and this is part of that,” said Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS Automotive. “It’s certainly a move to improve efficiency since you’ll have the people responsible for product development, engineering and manufacturing all in one place.”

Honda, Japan’s third-largest automaker, counts North America as its biggest global market and largest source of profit and sales. The company’s Marysville factory was the first Japanese auto-assembly plant in the U.S., beginning auto production in 1982.

The company also has set a goal of becoming a net exporter of cars and trucks from North America as production operations in the region grow.

Improving Speed

“These organizational changes will improve the speed of decision-making and the efficiency of our business operations,” Tetsuo Iwamura, Honda’s executive vice president and chief operating officer for North America, said in a statement. Iwamura will split his time among Marysville, Torrance and Tokyo, Smith said.

Along with his regional duties, Iwamura, 61, will also become Honda’s chief operating officer for global automobile operations and risk management officer from April 1, the company said. Fumihiko Ike, chief financial officer and senior managing officer, will become chairman from April 1, Honda said.

The company is creating Honda North America Services LLC in Marysville to coordinate support functions for Honda’s units in the region. Hidenobu Iwata, head of production for North America, will lead the services unit.

The changes won’t result in additional employment at this time, Smith said.

Honda also said yesterday it’s promoting long-serving U.S. and Canadian managers. From April 1, Bob Nelson becomes president of the Greensburg, Indiana, auto plant, which produces Civic small cars; Jon Minto will lead Honda Engineering North America, which makes the company’s manufacturing equipment; and Dan Smith will be president of Honda’s Alliston, Ontario, auto plant, which assembles the Civic and the CR-V sport-utility vehicle.

Honda’s American depositary receipts rose 1.9 percent to $37.56 at the close yesterday in New York.

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