By Kirk Johannesen and Brenda Showalter, The Republic

johannesen@therepublic; bshowalter@therepublic.

   Honda Motor Co. announced Friday that it will reduce production in North America, including at the Greensburg plant, to adjust to lower demand for vehicles.

   Andrew Stoner, Honda spokesman, said no workers would be cut or temporarily laid off, but they can participate in "no pay, no penalty" days when no production will occur. 

   Honda Motor Co. is lowering production by 119,000 vehicles, bringing anticipated production for its fiscal year ending March 31 to 1.3 million cars and light trucks. The company already has cut production by 56,000 vehicles this fiscal year.

    The Greensburg plant, which began production of Civic sedans in October, needs to reduce by 6,000 cars its original production plan through March 31. About 200 Civics are produced daily by one production shift at the Greensburg plant, which has 915 employees.

   Stoner said the original plan was to produce 400 Civics daily and hire about another 1,000 employees in 2009. Stoner said the Greensburg plant would increase its production, but not reach its original plan of 400 cars daily during these tough economic times.

   "We'll have to figure out at what point we make an adjustment," Stoner said. Other Honda plants that are operating at production capacity are making actual production cuts, Stoner said.

   Honda still plans to begin production of its natural gas Civic sedan at the Greensburg plant next year, and add a second shift, but the current economic situation would factor into when those additions will be made.

   "The primary focus is inventory control," Stoner said. The Greensburg plant will accomplish this by not producing cars on Dec. 22 and 23, and Jan. 5, 19, 23 and 30. On those days, employees can:

  • Take the day off without pay and not have it count against their work record.
  • Come in and work at their regular pay rate, but perform nonproduction duties.
  • Take a paid vacation day if they have one available. 

        Honda's measures to control production are typical and not surprising considering the current economic climate, said Ted Dawson, interim president of Columbus Economic Development Board

        "People are just not buying cars," Dawson said, no matter if they are domestic or foreign. 

        Japanese automakers typically cut employees as a last resort, Dawson said. He thinks the measures the company and the Greensburg plant are taking will keep it in a good position for when the economy improves, people buy more cars and production can increase. 

        "I wouldn't worry about the long-term service of that facility," Dawson said. 

        Honda, the No. 2 Japanese automaker says its projected production of 1.3 million cars and light trucks is still its fourth highest production in 27 years of vehicle building in North America. 

        Honda builds cars and parts in eight plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. 

        Honda and other foreign automakers have not been immune to the collapse in car demand in the U.S. Honda reported its sales fell 32 percent in November. 

        U.S.-traded shares of Honda fell $1.53, or 6.7 percent, to $21.47 shortly after the market opened. The stock has ranged from $17.35 to $36.40 over the past year.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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