Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. is moving closer to becoming the first Japanese automaker to install plastic fuel tanks on all its U.S.-built vehicles.
The carmaker is enlisting help from back home to do that.
Yachiyo Industry Co. Ltd. of Yachiyo, Japan, is forming a U.S.-based subsidiary, US Yachiyo, to make blow molded tanks for Honda's U.S. car models, according to sources who worked on the negotiations. Yachiyo works closely with Honda in Japan and has even produced a minicar — a small street vehicle — for the automaker.
The company will open a new, 102,000-square-foot plant in Marion, Ohio, by August of 2000, said David Cook, a Columbus, Ohio-based lawyer who worked with Yachiyo on the project. Yachiyo officials were unavailable for comment.
The company is investing $29 million to set up the facility, including $6.75 million for the new building and $18.5 million in blow molding equipment, Cook said. The plant will start with 49 employees and increase staff to 82 within three years of operation, he said.
The company plans to make as many as 192,600 coextruded fuel tanks by the year 2001, according to an application filed by Yachiyo for state tax credits.
The company, which announced its plans at a Marion reception Feb. 22, did not say which models would be fitted with the plastic tanks, made from high density polyethylene.
Honda spokesman Roger Lambert, based at the company's Marysville, Ohio, U.S. headquarters, also would not comment on specific products involving Yachiyo. But he said that Yachiyo would bring new technology to Honda.
``We work with 450 suppliers, most of them traditional U.S. manufacturers,'' Lambert said. ``At the same time, we have some unique, closely held technology within Honda. And [Yachiyo] is close to Honda.''
All fuel tanks built in North America use a six-layer process that includes an ethylene vinyl alcohol barrier to prevent gas permeation.
Virtually every new car and light truck built by U.S. carmakers uses a plastic fuel tank. Asian suppliers, however, have stayed with steel tanks until now.
Honda already is breaking that trend.
The company's redesigned, 1999 Odyssey minivan, built in Alliston, Ontario, uses a plastic fuel tank made by Kautex Textron of Windsor, Ontario. (See story on Page 15).
Yachiyo will make the tanks for Honda's 2000 model-year Accord vehicles, built in Marysville, and move later to Civics, said David Claborn, president of the economic development agency Marion Can Do!
But Cook said that the Civic cars, built in East Liberty, Ohio, could be the first to move to plastic tanks.
In North America, Yachiyo is part of a joint venture with ASC Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, to make sunroofs and also operates a manufacturing facility to make steel fuel tanks in Barrie, Ontario.