With assembly, engine and transmission plants in Ohio, Indiana, Alabama and Georgia, Honda exports such models as the Accord, Civic, CR-V, Odyssey, Acura RDX and MDX to 50 countries in Central America, South America, Africa and the Middle East.
By exporting more vehicles than it imports from Japan to the U.S., Honda rebuts the argument that Japanese automakers benefit from the lower value of the yen. The growth of Asian and European automakers in the U.S. further complicates the eternal debate about what is an American-made vehicle.
“This is really a significant milestone for our North American operations — it is really one that has been 30 years in the making,” said Rick Schostek, senior vice president of Honda in North America. “For a long time our goal has been self-reliance in North America.”
Honda began manufacturing cars in Ohio in 1982 when its plant in Marysville plant opened. The automaker now operates 14 manufacturing plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
They are mostly supported by a U.S.-based automotive parts supply chain. Honda also makes lawn mowers and motorcycles in North Carolina.
In 2013, nearly 95% of the vehicles Honda and Acura sold in the U.S. were produced in North America, including factories in Alliston, Ontario, and El Salto, Mexico. Honda will open another plant in Celaya, Mexico, next month to make its Fit subcompact.
Honda invested $12.3 billion in the U.S. between 1982 and 2013, and employs more than 26,000 Americans.
In recent years, as the value of the yen has declined, some automakers have said Honda and other Japanese automakers have an unfair trade advantage.
After falling to more than 130 yen to the dollar in 2012, the Japanese currency has rebounded to about 100 to the dollar. When the yen is weak, the dollars Honda, Toyota and Nissan collect from U.S. sales translate to more yen, the currency in which they report financial results. But the dollars they spend on American workers and technology also raise yen-based costs.
“It is really hard for us to fathom that we have an unfair advantage,” Schostek said, because the vast majority of the vehicles it sells in the U.S are made in North America.