The Honda CR-V Hybrid will become the latest electrified vehicle built in Canada this fall as the automaker invests $1.4 billion to retool its Alliston, Ont. campus to produce the sixth generation of the compact crossover.
Top company and government officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford and Honda Canada Inc. CEO Jean Marc Leclerc were in Alliston March 16 to announce the big-ticket retrofit that will make Plant 2 the lead plant for the 2023 CR-V Hybrid. It will also continue to build the gasoline-powered CR-V.
Leclerc said the investment is a “milestone” for Honda in Canada.
“This investment not only ensures our product and manufacturing competitiveness within Ontario, Canada and abroad, but also significantly bolsters our ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Honda of Canada Mfg. (HCM) has built the traditional CR-V at the plant north of Toronto since 2012. The automaker also produces the Civic sedan and four-cylinder engines for both vehicles at its Alliston campus’s two other plants.
The CR-V Hybrid is the first stage of the complex’s shift into electrified vehicles. The $1.4-billion investment will also cover upgrades to the neighbouring engine plant and Plant 1. Leclerc would not confirm the arrival of a hybrid Civic was imminent, citing his inability to comment on future product, but Honda said the six-year spending program encompasses the retooling of “both assembly lines” at HCM.
The fresh investment will keep staffing levels at the three facilities at approximately 4,200.
The federal and provincial governments pledged matching contributions of $131.6 million to back the investment from the Japanese automaker.
“Building hybrid-electrics will support thousands of good jobs here in Alliston and grow the economy, all while cutting pollution,” Trudeau said, adding the spending will help deliver on Ottawa’s commitments to a cleaner economy.
The CR-V will become the fourth hybrid model built in Ontario, joining the Chrysler Pacifica, produced in Windsor, Ont. since late 2016, the Toyota RAV4, built in Cambridge, Ont. since 2019, and the Lexus RX Hybrid, built in Cambridge since 2014.
Securing hybrid or fully electric production mandates for its assembly plants has been a key mission for the provincial government as adoption rates for electric vehicles accelerate through the 2020s.
Ford said the new spending is “more proof that there is no better place” for auto manufacturing than Ontario.
“We are home to the most skilled workers anywhere in the world, we have all the necessary natural resources, and we have created the best environment for jobs to grow and businesses to flourish.”
In addition to the retooling at Honda, which got underway in Alliston late last year, General Motors will start work to transform its CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, Ont. to produce electric delivery vans starting in April. Other planned electrification projects include overhauls at the Windsor Assembly Plant and Ford Motor Co.’s Oakville Assembly.
UPPING THE ANTE
While Honda has produced the CR-V Hybrid at its plant in Greensburg, Ind. since 2019, the hybrid crossover has not previously been available in Canada. That will change for the 2023 model year as the new crossovers begins rolling off the line in Alliston.
Honda said upping the ante on CR-V Hybrid production is a response to higher demand for electrified models. The Japanese automaker has been slower than many competitors to embrace EVs, but plans to have shifted its entire North American lineup to battery or fuel cell electric by 2040.
In Canada, however, that transition will need to happen more quickly. The federal government aims to require all new vehicles sold in Canada be zero-emissions by 2035, though it has not yet legislated this target.
Honda expects production over the next few years to be divided evenly between gasoline and hybrid versions of the CR-V.
The plant has capacity to produce more than 200,000 of the crossovers each year. In pre-pandemic 2019, workers at Plant 2 assembled 211,195 CR-Vs, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center in Detroit. That figure had dropped to 150,211 last year, largely due to the ongoing microchip shortage.
With an improving outlook for chips, the automaker expects to return to higher production to return in 2023.
The tentative date for the first new 2023 CR-V to roll off the retooled line in Alliston is this summer, with the hybrid version of the crossover following shortly after.