This month, Honda is celebrating 35 years of auto manufacturing in the U.S., which began Nov. 1, 1982, with the start of its Accord assembly line in Marysville, Ohio. Even though most Japanese automakers present in the U.S. market today have factories employing tens of thousands of workers, the 1982 opening of the Marysville plant was a landmark moment not only for Honda but for all Japanese manufacturers -- it was the first car plant of a Japanese automaker opened in America.
The automotive industry in the U.S. was quite different than it is today, and this doesn't go for consumer tastes alone. When the first Accord rolled off the assembly line, sedan was still king, and the battle between all automakers essentially amounted to who can sell them most midsize sedans and station wagons with the best gas mileage. 1982 represented the tail end of the Malaise era in automaking, and the first Accord landed just as various gas crises were beginning to wind down and big sedans were becoming popular again. Of course, Honda had gathered an impressive consumer following in the U.S. even before the launch of the Marysville plant; its reliable and economical sedans and hatches, including the Civic, had won over car buyers.
The opening of the Accord assembly line in Ohio in 1982 kicked off a gradual move of Japanese car production of the best-selling U.S. models to the States: Nissan followed in 1983 with a plant in Smyrna, Tennessee (that now produces the Maxima), and Toyota opened its giant Georgetown, Kentucky, plant in 1988 to produce the Camry. Suppliers followed the automakers, setting up local production, and Japanese automakers alone now have 11 car assembly plants in the U.S., not counting far more stand-alone parts and engine plants.
In total, there are 24 manufacturing plants in 20 states in addition and 43 research, development and design facilities operated by Japanese-brand automakers in the U.S. Together these plants produced just under 4 million vehicles in 2016, more than 400,000 of which were exported to other countries from the U.S.
One item almost overlooked today is that Accord nameplate is still going and is now in its 10th generation -- something that can't be said for many of its competitors from 35 years ago. Honda dealers sell an average of one Accord about every two minutes, but it's not just the Accord that has won over the U.S. and made its home here; popular segment rivals like the Toyota Camry and the Nissan Maxima have been produced in the U.S. for decades as well.
Jay Ramey - Jay Ramey is an Associate Editor with Autoweek