By James R. Healey
When Japan's Honda Motor announced in 1980 its then-radical decision to build cars in the U.S., the auto business collectively said, "What?"
Volkswagen, alone among foreign car companies, was trying limited U.S. production, assembling Rabbit compacts at a Pennsylvania factory, and struggling to get it right. While auto buyers now take for granted that cars bearing European or Asian nameplates often are made in the heart of the U.S., 30 years ago it was a stunning notion.
Honda was "the canary in the coal mine," says John Voorhorst, a consultant and retired vice president of auto-parts supplier Denso. "There were a lot of skeptics here" betting that Honda's plant at Marysville, Ohio, wouldn't last long.
In fact, that "transplant" factory, which built its first Accord in November 1982, burst a dam. Within a few years Japan's major automakers all were here, cranking out hundreds of thousands of new vehicles a year.