Entering its third generation, the Pilot has received a complete makeover. Honda said the 2016 model has been totally re-engineered and redesigned to offer new technology, advanced safety features, class-leading fuel economy and enhanced utility.
“The new Pilot will continue to be made exclusively in America, at our Lincoln, Alabama facility,” Jeff Conrad, senior vice president and general manager of Honda, said at the debut at the Chicago Auto Show this morning.
During his presentation, Conrad said the new eight-passenger SUV is “critical to fortifying our light truck line-up.”
Workers at the automaker’s Alabama plant gathered this morning to watch a live feed of the redesigned Pilot’s debut. Honda Manufacturing of Alabama has produced nearly 1.2 million Pilots over the last 11 years. Last year, it assembled 134,379 Pilots, a significant portion of its record annual output of more than 363,400 vehicles.
The Lincoln plant also produces the Odyssey minivan and the Acura MDX luxury SUV, along with the V-6 engines that power its Alabama-made models. Mass production of the MDX was launched in May 2013, marking the first time a vehicle in the Acura family was assembled in Alabama.
The plant has also made the Ridgeline pickup, which is on hiatus while a redesign is under way.
The 2016 Pilot that drove onto the stage at the Chicago Auto Show this morning displayed new touches and a new look that features a sloping roofline and an angular body. It’s also getting a new 3.5 liter, V-6 engine.
Marc Ernst, chief engineer and development director for the redesigned Pilot, said the third-generation model represents a “new breed of SUV,” with a “youthful and modern, yet sophisticated, look.”
The new Pilot is 3.5 inches longer than the previous model but weighs up to 300 pounds less, increasing its cargo room. It offers features such as an available panoramic roof, push-button start and a new remote engine start system, along with enhanced plug-and-play connectivity for gadgets.
“From top to bottom, we have advanced every feature of the Pilot,” Ernst said.
The original Honda Pilot was introduced in 2002 as the first mainstream eight-passenger SUV to feature car-like unibody construction for smoother driving and better fuel economy.
The Alabama plant launched production of the Pilot on April 27, 2004, when the automaker opened a second assembly line in Lincoln after an expansion. Between 2004 and 2008, Honda plants in Alabama and Canada both produced the family SUV.
The Alabama facility became the only Honda plant in the world to produce Pilots on April 15, 2008, when the second-generation model entered mass production in Lincoln.
EXPANDING IN ALABAMA
During the past three years, Honda’s Alabama operation has announced investments totaling more than $508 million to improve production flexibility, enhance quality and increase vehicle production. Included in those investments is $71 million for a highly automated engine assembly facility, which started limited production in late 2014.
Additionally, in early 2014, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama brought its third stamping press on-line at the 3.7-million-square-foot Lincoln facility.
During the past three years, the Alabama operation has hired more than 450 associates in production and professional positions, pushing total headcount to more than 4,000.