TORONTO — Other manufacturers brought cars to the Canadian International AutoShow. Honda brought an assembly line.
The robotic arm display, in which camera-controlled mechanical arms dip and whirl alongside human employees working on partially finished Civics, is bound to attract attention at the Toronto show, which opened to the public Friday and runs through Feb. 23.
But for Singee Cheah, engineering leader at Honda Canada Manufacturing Canada, the goal is more than entertainment. He hopes the demonstration will help people understand the benefits of machine-human partnerships in manufacturing.
“We want people to get used to technology working around you, and not be scared of it,” Cheah told Automotive News Canada.
The robotic line is part of Honda’s Intersection display, which debuted at the Montreal Auto Show in January and is meant to spotlight the automaker’s efforts in safety, mobility and environmental protection.
It’s also a sign of the changing thrust of auto shows, as more manufacturers choose to introduce new models on social media or before narrowly targeted audiences. Some, including Mercedes and Volvo in Toronto this year, are sitting out shows, while others are showing off new trim levels and bringing more accessories to enliven their displays – although, so far, only Honda has set up an assembly line.
The Toronto show is not lacking vehicular crowd-pleasures, however. Chevrolet is debuting the convertible model of its new mid-engined Corvette and also has the hardtop version introduced in Montreal.
Ford brought the all-electric Mustang Mach-E, finished, of course, in electric blue, and Fiat Chrysler unveiled the Mojave version of the Jeep Gladiator, described by Jeep brand chief Jim Morrison as “the ultimate off-road midsized pickup truck.”
More than 1,000 new vehicles are on display at the show, which continues through Feb. 23 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Visitors can also test-drive electric vehicles, see vintage and racing cars and exotics, plus numerous product displays.
Honda’s Cheah said another goal of the automaker’s display is to expose young people to technology, in the hopes of encouraging more of them to consider careers in engineering, and thus help Canada compete in an ever-more-complex world.
It’s a self-admitted crusade for Cheah, who each year offers 65 internships at Honda’s plant in Alliston, Ont., to university engineering students from across Canada.
While the posts could lead to full-time jobs at Honda for some, all the participants acquire “very transferable skill sets,” he said.
“Every single company would hire them.”