By on January 11, 2017

Acura MDX Honda Pilot Odyssey Ridgeline – Images: American Honda

Throughout much of the third-generation Honda Pilot’s tenure, U.S. sales have not measured up to the success of the previous-generation model, though not for lack of demand.

In a market gone mad for SUVs and crossovers, three other vehicles have constrained production of the Pilot in Lincoln, Alabama. In addition to the Pilot, American Honda builds the Honda Odyssey in Lincoln, along with the Acura MDX. The second-generation Ridgeline started rolling off the Alabama line in May 2016.

As a result, Honda dealers have had a difficult time getting their hands on enough Pilots to sate the predictably high level of interest in a respected three-row crossover nameplate. Heading into December, for instance, Honda only had 36 days of Pilot supply according to Automotive News, about half the current industry average.

But with an all-new 2018 Odyssey about to pick up steam and the Ridgeline reaching a second-gen high of 4,085 sales in December, the Pilot needs room to breathe. 

We already knew Honda was moving some Acura MDX production to the East Liberty, Ohio, facility where it assembles the Honda CR-V and Acura RDX.

Anticipating the potential for light-truck growth at both the Honda and Acura brands, American Honda executive vice president John Mendel said nearly two years ago moving some MDX production to Ohio would “further advance our flexibility in North America to meet future demand.”

Honda East Liberty Plant - Image: American Honda

Apparently not to a sufficient degree. Before the partial MDX shift to Ohio was even planned to begin this spring, American Honda has now decided Acura MDX production — in whole — will be shifted to the East Liberty plant, the Columbus Business First’s Dan Eaton reports.

Presumably the Honda Crosstour’s absence creates some extra space. (Did you even take time to mourn its loss?)

The original plan to move some MDX production to Ohio required an $85 million investment in the East Liberty plant. American Honda began activity in East Liberty in 1989 and has, at one time or another, assembled Accords, Civics, Crosstours, CR-Vs, Elements, RDXs, and Acura CL coupes. In its first and second-gen iterations, Honda assembled the Acura MDX in Alliston, Ontario.

In 2016, calendar year U.S. sales of the Acura MDX slid to a three-year low. Meanwhile, MDX sales jumped 7 percent in the second-half of 2016 as the refreshed 2017 Acura MDX became steadily more available in recent months.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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34 Comments on “Acura Moving All MDX Production To Ohio; Maybe Now Honda Dealers Will Be Able To Stock Pilots...”


  • avatar
    brettc

    Every time I see a Crosstour I laugh and wonder what the executives were sniffing/smoking at the time it was given the OK for production.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The Crosstour was actually a pretty good car, if you drove it: it was basically “the best Accord”.

      The problem is that Honda is terribly arrogant*: they, more often than not, build the cars they want to build, not the ones their customers are necessarily asking for. Some times this works out pretty well, like with the Accord, Civic and CR/V, but you’ll also see Honda engage in more than a little WTFism when they go off and greenlight someone’s pet project, like the ZDX, CR-Z, Crosstour and, oh, every single hybrid they’d ever made.

      They’re also too arrogant to change tack. If they build something, they will generally stick by it for it’s entire run, no matter how badly it’s selling. It also results in some serious NIH syndrome which has, periodically, bitten them really hard (again, just about every Honda hybrid and Hondamatic transmission from the late

      But again, they get away with it because they do make very good product. Other manufacturers (VW, pre-BK GM) have similar levels of corporate hubris, but don’t regularly knock out products anywhere near as robust.

      * Compare and contrast with Toyota, who builds to a focus group and will cancel non-performers (when “non-performer” means “isn’t making Toyota money”). Toyota is paranoid, not arrogant.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        I’ve recommended the Crosstour to a couple of friends who were looking for AWD, midsize room and a hatch. If you have those needs and don’t have to carry big square furniture, its spectacular depreciation makes it a helluva deal late-model used. Hey, J-series V6, all the usual Honda mechanical virtues and far greater cargo capacity, all for less than the equivalent used Accord sedan. What’s so bad about that?

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I think it’s hideous, but it seems to me that the Crosstour is exactly what a not-insignificant number of Honda’s customers wanted and needed. I see it all the time. I don’t think it deserves to be lumped into the same category as the ZDX and CR-Z, which were useless.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yep, the Crosstour was a whiff. But the concept – five door liftgate – might have been ahead of its’ time.

      #Tesla Model S

      • 0 avatar
        Der_Kommissar

        More like #pontiacAztek

      • 0 avatar
        LeMansteve

        How much you wanna bet the 2018 Accord will have a liftgate? With the midsize/family car segment shrinking, maybe a liftgate would broaden appeal of the iconic Accord brand.

        I also expect the new dedicated Hybrid that Honda is brewing will have a liftgate.

        The Model S was hardly the first liftback sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        The concept is sound, but it’s all in the shape. When the roofline, rather than being a smooth arch, is athletic and apexes just before or close to the windshield, the vehicle looks a lot better. For an example of this, see BMW’s 3-Series GT versus the 4-Series Gran Coupe. Both of those are liftbacks, of sorts, and on the same architecture, but the 4-Series Gran Coupe is much sexier. Mind you, it sits lower, too, having the same roofline as the 4-Series coupe.

        Unfortunately, the Crosstour’s shape was closer to that of the 3-Series GT.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Especially those that own more than one.

  • avatar
    mtmmo

    Does changing factories fix the garbage ZF 9 speed trans they’re sticking customers with? I’ve had several ’16 loaners and all of them exhibited the same hard shifting and sloth like kick down characteristics. Acura has become a faux entry level luxury brand.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      Probably not. But not all models come with the 9 speed, right?

      I think the Pilot is just too much of a boat. It’s too curvy and too fat. It looks less SUV-ish than a Kia Sedona.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Acura used to be premium, back in the nineties. Unlike most other premium marques, I don’t think they quite ever made it to “luxury.” But there’s no doubt that Acura makes some luxury products, such as the aforementioned MDX, or the Legend.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      The ZF 9sp feels just fine after the software update.

      • 0 avatar
        quaquaqua

        Sorry, but no. First, *which* software update? Second, the Pacifica was supposed to be the version that finally worked out all the kinks – it mostly did – but randomly while driving it will change gears with, not with a whimper, but with a bang. It’s a nightmare of a design, and it’s turned me off of anything with more than 6 speeds from any manufacturer. Fortunately I’m not in the market anytime soon.

      • 0 avatar
        mtmmo

        “…the software update.” You clearly don’t know much about the Acura ZF transmission problems. There are at least 10 software TSB’s for MY ’15 for the TLX alone. Acura has little clue on how to get the trans to work properly. Even after redesigning the dog clutches for the ’16 model they are still having problems as that MY has 3 trans TSB’s. Acura dealers are so clueless and desperate they’re applying ’16 TSB’s to ’15 models to see if any of them work.
        If you want to know why Acura’s sales are down as much as VW’s a lot of it is due to the ZF trans issue and how dealers have been treating customers. The most under reported story in the industry is the impact the ZF debacle has had on Acura’s reputation and market share.

        • 0 avatar
          onyxtape

          I’m only referring to the MDX. I’ve heard not so good experiences with the TLX despite the ZF unit being identical. Yes, I agree that they’ve done irreparable harm with this transmission.

          But all in all, they seemed to have taken care of this issue on the MDX according to the owner’s forums.

          • 0 avatar
            mtmmo

            Not sure what owner’s forums you’re reading as it’s well documented a lot of the ’17 MDX have the 2nd-3rd gear hard shift along with the loud bang when shifting into reverse from a cold start.

          • 0 avatar
            onyxtape

            We have a 2016, so I haven’t paid attention to the 2017’s problems.

  • avatar
    EX35

    The Pilot is a pretty mediocre car. Why are customers gobbling these up? Are there really no better alternatives?

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Please tell us why you think it’s mediocre.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The GMC Acadia sells similarly at close to 100,000 units, with the sales edge to Honda. GM has 2000 dealerships and Honda has 1,000. Researching on Cars for new Pilots and Acadia’s, GM has 8.5 units per dealership and Honda has 6 units.

      So tell me how Honda has a restraint?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I don’t like the design, but the Pilot is actually highly competitive, and accomplishes its mission well.

      • 0 avatar
        EX35

        not really. mediocre build quality (in the Elite I test drove), noise, flimsy steering feel, terrible 9sp tranny, and pricey for what you get.

      • 0 avatar
        quaquaqua

        Yeah, I don’t get the “highly competitive” vibe from the Pilot at all. I think it’s just selling well because of Honda’s reputation and the relative hideousness of the Odyssey. If you don’t need quite that much space, the Sorento obliterates the Pilot in terms of driving dynamics. Yes, it’s quite a bit smaller, but there are also plenty of vehicles in the Pilot’s class (even the Traverse, which is an old design) that accomplish the “mission” of the Pilot better than the Pilot – and without any iffy transmission options to boot.

  • avatar

    Acura just needs to rename the division Acura MDX and sell only the MDX. Keep low volume production of the ILX running so people who have their MDXs serviced can have loaner cars.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Even easier, just remove the “H” and model lettering from Civics sourced from the local Honda dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        Corey Lewis

        That’s a bit harsh on the ILX there – it definitely looks more reasonable than the Civic does now.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          True but its just as easy to make the Civic not look extremely stupid and ditch the ILX. The thinking was almost: “Ok we’re going to put this horrible look on the new Civic, which is 90% of production/sales, but give the ILX the traditional look Civic buyers want, which is 10% of production sales, and thus force some Civic buyers into ILX for the extra 25%”. That’s probably near verbatim to what happened.

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            I think they were just trying to stand out with the styling. That’s the only way they can make themselves noticeable in a sea of similar, reliable, cheap compact options.

          • 0 avatar

            I really don’t find the new Civic to be very offensive, especially compared to arch-rival Corolla with its road grading apparatus snout.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Does a 36 day supply really impact sales? It is shorter than the typically quote 60 average but still 6 working weeks of supply.

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    I’m guessing that a big part of the reason may also be quality control. The MDXes coming out of the Alabama plant have crooked body panels as a matter of course, along with a few other common assembly issues. I heard the East Liberty plant has a much higher quality rating.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    This game of musical chairs makes sense. Now Alabama will have more capacity to build the still-supply-constrained Pilot and the new Odyssey.


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