Honda investment

ANNA — Honda of America  Manufacturing Inc. executives officially announced Wednesday the company plans to invest $98 million at its engine plant in Anna to make high-tech components for its new transmission and to help Honda start its comeback in the United States after tough fourth quarter.

Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who visited the plant for the ceremony, addressed the crowd of several hundred during the company’s announcement.

“We want to put the workers in Ohio that have lost their jobs in the last decade back to work,” Taylor said. “And Honda, right here in Anna, is doing their part.”

The Anna plant will manufacture the pulley components for Honda’s new continuously variable transmission (CVT) technology, which will debut in the 2013 Honda Accords scheduled to be released later this year. The move is in alignment with a $120

million announcement announced last year for the production of the transmission at the Honda plant in Russells Point. The Accord for the U.S. market is produced only at the plant in Marysville.

The move is expected to create 150 new jobs between the Russells Point and Anna facilities.

The CVT is part of Honda’s “Earth Dreams” powertrain technology lineup, aimed at improving performance and fuel-efficiency. The plant manager said motorists would notice the differences in performance quickly and is aimed at improving fuel efficiency

“This is an exciting time,” Anna Plant Manager John Spoltman said. “A lot has been done to improve the fuel technology.”

Spoltman said the transmission is designed to smoothly shift through gears and drivers of the Honda will not notice any jerks between gear to gear as is common with most automatic transmissions.

While the Anna plant prepares for its production launch in 2013, the Russells Point plant will begin producing the CVT transmission over the summer, Spoltman said. Pulley components for the transmission plant will initially come from plants in Japan while the Anna plant prepares for production in 2013.

Spoltman said the announcement came as welcomed news to the plant’s 2,400 workers. The announcement came a day after Honda reported a 41 percent drop in its net earnings for October through December, ending a year that included supply disruptions from floods in Thailand and the earthquake in Japan.

“Last year was probably the most difficult time in our plant’s history,” Spoltman said. “Today begins the comeback. We are ready to usher in the rebound of this great company.”

Spoltman said hiring for the new positions has already began at the Russells Point facility. Hiring for the new production at the Anna plant will take place sometime in 2013.

“We had a rough year that started with the Japanese disaster and tsunami,” Spoltman said. A lot of our associates were sitting idle. Now we are preparing for what will hopefully be a successful 2012.”

The CVT technology will be mated with Honda’s new 2.4-liter direct-injection engine, which is also produced at the Anna plant. With the capacity to 1.18 million engines annually, the Anna plant is the largest engine factory in Honda’s network.

The Anna plant will be responsible for producing three different new fuel-efficient engines over the next two years, Spoltman said. The CVT technology is expected to improve fuel economy by about 10 percent.