24 December 2010

Honda North American Production 1982-2009

Honda started making cars in North America in 1982, when 1,000 units were manufactured in Marysville, Ohio. The following year was the first full year and 55,000 Accord cars rolled off the production line. The Civic joined it in 1986 and by the end of that year, Accords started to be made in Ontario, Canada. All up, 240,000 cars were made in North America for that year. From there other notable dates:

1989: Ontario switched to Civic production, and the East Liberty Plant, Ohio was opened in the US for mainly Civic manufacture.
1990: The 500,000 mark was passed in production with 330,000 Accords and 210,000 Civics.
1996: Acura production commenced in East Liberty and Canada. Modest manufacturing volume of the Accord also started in El Salto, Mexico.
1998: Acura manufacture starts to switch from East Liberty to Maysville, Ohio and the Oddessy production is up and running in Ontario.
2000: One million cars are produced in North America for the first time.
2007: More models are added in the 21st century, as are new factories and production reaches a peak of 1,430,000 units.
2009: The year finished just over the million mark with the recession biting hard.

It’s amazing how things moved so quickly with production volumes for Honda Nth America. All Japanese brands have gone down the same road to avoid a consumer backlash against too many imported cars. Most of the 21 million cars that have been made up to now by Honda North America have been for their domestic markets, with exports amounting to only a few percent of that total.

What it means to me: The Japanese car manufacturing invasion was only possible due to the complacency of the ‘Big Three’ US car makers.

18 December 2010

Ariel Ltd

The Ariel car company was originally started in 1991 and called Solocrest Limited. It became Ariel Ltd in 2001 and can be found in the English county of Somerset. It is a very small car firm and makes less than 100 cars per year.

The vehicle it makes is the Ariel Atom, lightweight with blistering performance. The one sold in the UK uses a Honda Civic Type-R engine/gearbox for propulsion, while the US version is powered by a supercharged GM Ecotec engine. The Atom is a road car with no body panelling at all, not even a roof to keep you dry. In England's wet weather, a real problem at times I would imagine. The body therefore simply consists of tubular framing, the obvious advantage being lightness. This is a car that works within Lotus' founder Colin Chapman's mantra of speed achieved through light weight. It tips the scales at less than 500 kg (1,100 lb), so its power-to-weight ratio is impressive. The Ariel website describes it as: "Uniquely designed, beautifully made, astonishing performance. The essence of the Atom is no compromise, total driver involvement."

Ariel is about to embark on a V8 car, the Atom 500, to be made in a limited run of 25 units. I cannot see the point, but for some enough is never enough.

What it means to me: I would love to drive one, either on a race track or down a twisting back road. Oh well, dreams are free.

14 December 2010

UK Market: 1984 to 2010 Comparison

Back in 1984, things were different in the UK car market. The cars bought for example, comparing the top 10 from 1984 on the left and 2010 on the right (2010 est. – based on SMMT data):

1 Ford Escort 157350 - Ford Fiesta 105000
2 Vaux Cavalier 132150 - Vauxhall Astra 80000
3 Ford Fiesta 125850 - Vauxhall Corsa 79000
4 Aust/MG Metro 117450 - Ford Focus 77000
5 Ford Sierra 113000 - VW Golf 59000
6 Aust/MG Maestro 83000 - VW Polo 46000
7 Vauxhall Astra 56500 - Peugeot 207 44000
8 Vauxhall Nova 55450 - BMW 3 Series 43000
9 Ford Orion 51000 - BMW MINI 40000
10 340 Volvo 35000 - Nissan Qashqai 39500

Most of the 1984 cars were UK built, now only Astra, MINI and Qashqai (Fiesta and Focus have UK engines, as do some 3 Series). Another point of difference is that the top 10 in ’84 had 53% of the total market, whereas the 2010 top 10 has fewer than 30%. Why this has happened I can only speculate. One reason may be that in 1984, the company you worked for chose company cars, now the worker does the choosing. Also, there is more variety to select from and the public seem to be taking advantage of that. Brand loyalty may not be so strong either.

Whatever the reasons, in 1984 five models exceeded 100,000 sales out of a 1,750,000 total. This year total sales will exceed 2m but only one model will squeak in over the 100k figure. Ford and Vauxhall still dominate but the Austin Rover Group of ’84 now exists only as Jaguar/Land Rover.

What it means to me: It's a shame Austins are not still around.