Honda Alabama marks milestone: 20 years of production at Lincoln plant

Honda Alabama marks milestone: 20 years of production at Lincoln plant
A row of Ridgeline pickups on the line at Honda's Alabama auto plant in Talladega County. The factory is the sole producer of the Ridgeline and several other models. (Honda Alabama)

Honda is marking 20 years of auto production in Alabama, an era that has transformed communities across the state touched by the automaker’s vast network of business.

At the same time, the company’s auto assembly plant in the Talladega County town of Lincoln has become a pivotal part of Honda’s global success as its primary production source for light trucks and the V-6 engines that power them.

The Lincoln plant has expanded multiple times over the years with new models, innovative manufacturing processes, additional jobs and key investments. Today, the operation represents a cumulative capital investment of $2 billion and has more than 4,500 employees.

Since the facility rolled out its first Odyssey minivan on Nov. 14, 2001, Honda’s Alabama autoworkers have produced more than 5 million light trucks and V-6 engines.

The plant is the sole producer of Honda’s Odyssey minivan, Passport SUV, Pilot SUV and Ridgeline pickup, with the capacity to turn out 340,000 vehicles and engines each year. Bob Schwyn, vice president and Alabama Auto Plant lead for Honda, credited the dedication and challenging spirit of the local workforce as instrumental to the company’s success. “Since Honda began production in Alabama in 2001, we have accomplished a great deal and put a number of high-quality products on the road, but it is our people – our Honda associates – who are the driving force in all of our accomplishments,” he said.

Associates gather on Nov. 14, 2001, for the official mass production start of the Honda Odyssey minivan, the first vehicle produced at the automaker’s Alabama Auto Plant. (Honda Alabama)

Industry leader

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said Honda helped form the foundation for Alabama’s modern auto manufacturing industry, which today includes more than 40,000 jobs and an annual production capacity topping 1 million vehicles.

Honda continues to be a leader in Alabama’s auto sector and on the worldwide auto manufacturing stage, Canfield said.

“One of Honda’s biggest strengths is the innovative design and manufacturing methods that keep its vehicles in high demand in markets around the globe,” he said. “The company has brought cutting-edge developments to its Talladega County plant many times over the past two decades, putting great trust in its local workforce, and Alabama autoworkers have delivered outstanding results again and again.”

The plant is in the middle of another hiring wave, seeking applicants for permanent production associate positions. Hourly wages start at about $20 for the assembly line jobs, with a wide range of medical, retirement, fitness and tuition assistance benefits available. The jobs require 2.5 years of production manufacturing experience. Apply here.

Working at Honda Alabama has become a family affair for 20-year associate Connie Suttle, second from left, and her three children, Cachauna Burns, Kwuantae Suttle and Derrick Hunter. All three of Suttle’s children have followed in her footsteps and are working alongside their mom as associates at the auto plant in Lincoln. (Honda Alabama)

Finding a ‘home’

Current Honda employees say the company is committed to the community as well, through numerous service projects and support of charitable organizations.

“Honda is not just here to build cars,” said Connie Suttle of Talladega, a production team lead at the plant who has worked there since 2001. “We are building families. We are building communities and we’re doing it together.”

Suttle knows a lot about Honda’s influence on families. All three of her children work at the Lincoln plant.

“I found a home when I came to Honda,” she said.

Honda contributes $12 billion to Alabama’s economy each year, according to a 2019 economic impact study commissioned by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. The study found the automaker accounts for more than 19,000 direct and indirect jobs.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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