Honda Shifting More Production to Thailand

November 30, 2011
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

Honda will shift more motorcycle production away from its domestic factories, according to reports in the Japanese press. The Daily Yomiuri reports the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer will begin production of “large and midsize motorcycles” including bikes of 400cc and higher at its Thai facilities.

The 2011 Honda CBR250R resembles the VFR1200F hybrid sport touring bike.
Honda appears set to move more motorcycle production to its Thai facilities, with mid-displacement offerings joining the smaller displacement rides already produced in Thailand.

Honda’s Thai factories currently produce small displacement models, most notable for the U.S. market being the new CBR250, as well as numerous scooters like the PCX and Elite. The models slated for transfer figure to be bikes like the CB400, a mid-displacement standard unavailable in the U.S. but popular in the domestic Japanese market.

It appears that production of large displacement models will remain at the Kumamoto factory, Honda’s sole motorcycle plant in Japan. In recent years Big Red has consolidated its domestic motorcycle production at Kumamoto and discontinued motorcycle production in the United States. VTX cruisers and Gold Wing touring models were built in Marysville, Ohio prior to 2009.

Honda’s decision reflects strategic cost cutting maneuvers, as it expands the production capacities of its Asian subsidiaries. A new production plant was completed in October 2011 for Jialing-Honda Motors Co., Ltd., the company’s joint venture in China – the world’s highest volume motorcycle market. Honda also continues to increase its production capacity in India (the second largest two-wheeled market). Honda opened its second factory for its Indian subsidiary Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) this summer, with plans to build the third factory. (Honda notably split from its joint venture in India, Hero Honda, at the end of 2010 – Hero Honda being the largest manufacturer in India.) 

The Japanese manufacturers continue to recover from the economic downturn, as well as the disruptive effects of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Honda has also suffered a month’s worth of production loss at its Thai facilities, including motorcycle production, due to flooding in the region. While no flood water inundated its property, disruption of supply chains hampered production.