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Honda prepares to roll out new Alabama-made Acura MDX sport utility vehicle from Lincoln plant

LINCOLN, Alabama – The newest Made-In-Alabama vehicle, the Acura MDX, will arrive in mid-2013 at dealer showrooms across the nation, adding a touch of luxury to the line-up produced in the state. The Alabama-made Acura MDX also will be heading to a distant market – China.

The Honda plant in Lincoln has been preparing to introduce the MDX to its line-up since early 2011, when it was announced that production of the luxury sport utility would be shifted from Canada. This will be the first time the Alabama plant has produced a model with the Acura badge.

Honda’s decision to make the Acura MDX at the Talladega County manufacturing facility was seen as another vote of confidence in its Alabama operation. The 4,000-worker plant currently assembles Odyssey minivans, Pilot sport utilities and Ridgeline pickup trucks, along with the engines that power them.

“It’s extremely positive for the auto industry and the state because it’s such an important product now being made in Alabama,” Steve Sewell, executive vice president for the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, told the Anniston Star. “It’s another stamp of approval for Alabama — it shows that marquee companies can be successful here.”

The first Alabama-made Acura MDX vehicles are expected to arrive in dealer showrooms in mid-2013. The MDX is the best-selling Acura model in the United States, with sales topping 50,000 vehicles in 2012. It first appeared as a 2001 model and competes in a segment that includes the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, made just 80 miles away in Vance.

The 2014 model being produced in Lincoln is redesigned to have a sleeker look than its predecessor. The new MDX was first shown off at the North American International Auto Show in January. Honda said the updated SUV’s  “aero sculpture” design features “alluring proportions with smooth, arching body lines matched to an efficient architecture.”

Automobile magazine had this to say about it:  “The updates may look minor, but Acura says that its main focus was increasing the trucklet’s aerodynamic efficiency. Those slices, bulges, and curves not only look handsome, but they also serve a purpose: the 2014 Acura MDX is 16 percent more aerodynamic than before.

“Better aerodynamics means better fuel efficiency, and Acura also spent plenty of time and money on other ways to increase the all-important MPG figures.”

Honda officials have said the updated Acura MDX will open a new export market for the Alabama plant — China. While most of the plant’s products are for domestic consumption, some are shipped to the Middle East, South America and Central America. In addition, Alabama-made Pilot SUVs are exported to Russia. Once the MDX begins production, the company’s Alabama-made vehicles will be shipped to around 40 different countries.

The Honda manufacturing plant produced nearly 337,000 vehicles last year, a record total, and the automaker announced a series of projects last year that added 350 assembly line and professional jobs and $390 million in investment. The capital investment in the plant will exceed the $2 billion mark in 2013.

Tom Shoupe, president of Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, said the plant’s work force made it possible for the facility to set new standards after the challenges presented in 2011 by natural disasters in Asia that disrupted supply chains for the automaker.

“Honda experienced a tremendous resurgence in production in 2012 after recovering from the natural disasters of the prior year,” Shoupe said. “The teamwork and dedication of our 4,000 associates has once led our company to achieve production of a record number of high-quality, Alabama-built vehicles and engines for our customers.”

The Lincoln plant is the only place in the world that Honda manufactures Odyssey minivans, Pilot sport utility vehicles and Ridgeline pickups.

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