LINCOLN, Alabama – Amid the cheers of celebrating workers, Honda launched mass production of its redesigned 2016 Pilot sport utility at the company’s Alabama plant – the latest in a flurry of new or re-engineered models emerging from the state’s automakers.
“It’s an exciting day for all of team members in Alabama,” Jeff Tomko, president of Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, said Thursday after a ceremony marking the 2016 Pilot production launch.
The new Pilot arrives at a time of intense product activity for Alabama’s expanding auto industry. In April, Mercedes-Benz celebrated “Job One” for its all-new GLE Coupé, signifying the beginning of mass production in Alabama of the sporty model that looks like a streamlined SUV.
In March, Mercedes made a splash at the New York Auto Show when it debuted the 2016 GLE sport utility, the new incarnation of the automaker’s pioneering M-Class, the first vehicle produced at its Alabama factory.
These vehicles are joining the production line-up at the Vance facility, which makes the GL-Class (soon to be called the GLS) and the C-Class sedan, introduced to the Alabama family after a launch ceremony in 2014.
At the Chicago Auto Show in February, Hyundai showed off its redesigned 2016 Elantra GT, to be produced at the $1.8 billion factory complex in Montgomery that this week marked its 10th anniversary. The new Elantra began appearing at dealerships in March.
Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the new product activity demonstrates the vitality of the state’s auto industry. For one thing, new and redesigned models frequently prompt additional supplier activity, resulting in new investment and jobs.
In addition, these new product rollouts show the confidence the automakers have in their Alabama facilities and workforces.
“The re-engineered 2016 Pilot continues the tradition of the highly advanced sport utility that Honda began making in Alabama in 2004,” Secretary Canfield said. “Since then, the skilled workforce at the plant in Lincoln has assembled more than 1.2 million Pilots and the V-6 engines that power them. Those production numbers will continue to grow with the next-generation Pilot.”
Entering its third generation, Honda said the 2016 Pilot has received a complete makeover. The 2016 model has been completely re-engineered and redesigned to offer new technology, advanced safety features, class-leading fuel economy and enhanced utility. It’s expected in dealer showrooms in June.
The new Pilot debuted at the Chicago Auto Show in February, where Marc Ernst, the chief engineer and development director for the new model, described it as a “new breed of SUV.” Also at the Chicago Auto Show, Honda confirmed that production of the next-generation Ridgeline will begin at the Lincoln facility early next year.
In the past three years, Honda has invested more than $500 million in its Alabama facility, where it also produces the Odyssey minivan and the Acura MDX luxury sport utility. Just last month, Honda showed off a new $71 million automated engine assembly line at the 3.7 million-square-foot Alabama plant.