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Down the road and a continent away


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a continent away

Ralph Kisiel

Automotive News

November 24, 2008 - 12:01 am ET

GREENSBURG, Ind. — The dark cloud that hangs menacingly over Detroit seemed light-years away on Monday, Nov. 17, as Honda Motor Co. CEO Takeo Fukui celebrated the opening of an assembly plant here.

While the Detroit 3 CEOs set off to Washington to beg for a bailout package, about 1,000 new Honda employees clapped along to Van Morrison's "Bright Side of the Road" blaring from speakers.

The celebration of Honda's sixth assembly plant in North America seemed a continent away from troubled Detroit, where each day seems to bring more bad news for General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC.

At a time when some automakers are closing assembly plants and laying off thousands of employees, Fukui dedicated Honda's new $550 million investment on what was 1,700 acres of farmland just two years ago.

As the Detroit 3 battle to remain in business next year, Honda's Fukui reminded employees and government guests that this gala was just a jump-start on Honda's 50th anniversary of business operations in America, another celebration to look forward to in 2009.

Employees watched as Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels choked up as he recalled how he sat in a Tokyo hotel room on a spring night in 2006 waiting for the call from Honda with news that Indiana had won the big prize. Honda says that it received combined state and local government incentives valued at $73.6 million to put the plant in Greensburg.

'A very challenging time'

The employees cheered as the Indiana plant's Japanese president, Yuzo Uenohara, drove a dark 2009 Civic up to the podium, carrying three beaming employees with him.

In Fukui's only nod to the economic turmoil in the United States and his competitors' plight in Detroit, he noted that the new plant has begun operation "at a very challenging time" with a "difficult economy and increasing competition." He added that these challenging times also represent opportunity for Honda and its fuel-efficient Civic.

When the festivities concluded, Fukui was whisked away from a large contingent of newspaper, TV and radio reporters.

Fukui left perhaps the day's most important message to a corporate affairs officer attending from Honda's offices in Torrance, Calif.

The message: While Honda celebrates, it does understand the need of Congress to examine some form of support for the Detroit 3. Honda supports measures that would maintain the short- and long-term viability and stability of the auto industry.

But Honda also knows it's good to be on the bright side of the road.

Link: http://www.autonews.com/article/20081124/A...paign_id=alerts

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