Factory Tour: Honda of South Carolina

A few years ago when the off-road market flopped in the wake of a stagnant economy, I was incredibly concerned that manufacturers would play it safe and pull the plug on any new models in development. While some OEM’s seemed to stay on the gas and continue to produce innovative new products, even despite the tumultuous situation, Honda appeared to be asleep at the wheel. After spending time at the Honda factory in Timmonsville, South Carolina to witness the first production 2014 Pioneer SxS roll off the production line, it's clear to me that Honda had us all completely bamboozled.

Since opening its doors in 1998, Honda of South Carolina (HSC) has manufactured over two million ATV’s, all produced right here in the United States with the blood, sweat, and tears of our neighbors, friends, and family members. With a capital investment of 287 million dollars in the facility and all the things that make it go, and a payroll in excess of 50 million dollars to compensate approximately 600 employees, it’s safe to say Timmonsville, SC is heavily dependent upon HSC.

When Honda discontinued their Personal Water Craft (PWC) line a few years ago, the assembly line where construction took place at HSC became available. As development of the Pioneer began, the decision was made to convert the PWC line into the Pioneer assembly line, thus creating new jobs in South Carolina and best utilizing the resources already in place within HSC.

As I witnessed the first Pioneer roll off the line on June 21st, it was clear to me that this was a huge accomplishment for both American Honda and HSC. Present for the launch were all of the factory workers, the engineering team, marketing team, and all of Honda’s high level executives. However, the guest of honor who stole the show was South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who jumped behind the wheel of the first production Pioneer to roll off the line and wheeled it around the factory. Not only was Governor Haley hip to the idea that her fellow South Carolinians are responsible for manufacturing some pretty great products at HSC, she was also likely the first and only governor I’ll ever hear use the term “Mack Daddy” to describe the Pioneer.

Looking forward, I suspect my recent trip to Honda of South Carolina won’t be my last. Usually guarding their secrets better than the CIA, Honda made no attempt to keep a lid on the idea that they’ll be launching more exciting new products in the near future. As with nearly every factory tour, there were places us annoying media types were not permitted to visit. Reading between the lines and listening to the information Honda has already disclosed, there’s probably a really good reason for that! I suspect we’ll see more new ATV’s and SxS’s released by Honda sooner than later, and I also anticipate they’ll all be born at Honda of South Carolina. It looks like Honda has weathered the economic storm here in the US, and I’m looking forward to see what cool new products the great people of South Carolina and HSC deliver to us in the future!

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