Honda signals it may expand CVTs

LOS ANGELES — Honda’s plan to produce continuously variable transmissions at a new plant in Celaya, Mexico, hints that more Honda models sold here could be fitted with CVTs.

The $470 million factory in Celaya will operate alongside a vehicle assembly plant under construction that is scheduled to build the next-generation Fit hatchback and a Fit-based crossover.

Honda said the transmission plant will open in the second half of 2015. The initial annual capacity will be 350,000 units and will rise to nearly 700,000 within several years. At peak capacity, the plant will employ about 1,500 workers.

The Fit assembly plant is expected to open in spring 2014 with a planned annual capacity of 200,000 units.

The Celaya factory will be Honda’s third transmission plant in North America. When it reaches full production, Honda’s transmission capacity in North America will exceed 2 million units.

The upcoming Fit and Fit-based crossover are expected to be equipped with CVTs. Among Honda vehicles sold now in North America, CVTs are used in the Accord four-cylinder, the Civic Hybrid and the Insight. Combined sales of those vehicles amount to far less than the Celaya plant’s 700,000-unit capacity. Honda spokesman Ed Miller declined to say what other vehicles might add a CVT to make use of the plant’s production.

Honda already assembles CVTs for the Accord in Russells Point, Ohio. Production of CVT pulleys will move from Japan to Anna, Ohio, in July.

The Russells Point plant has capacity to supply transmissions for all Accords produced in North America, Miller said.

Miller said the Celaya plant will focus on CVTs, but he declined to say whether geared transmissions might also be built there. He said the plant will focus on producing CVTs for vehicles built in North America but that export to other markets is possible.

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