It’s easy to understand why Honda is one of the world’s most trusted car brands. From its safety features to its slick looks, Honda has consistently offered high performance, value-driven vehicles.
“When Honda came to Canada, we came as a small company with a dream. We began with motorcycles and power equipment and it took a lot of work to gain the confidence and trust of Canadians,” reads the Honda Canada website. “But we worked hard and over time our products earned the respect of the marketplace. And so we grew. Honda began as a local company with a global vision. Today, we see ourselves as a global company with a local vision.”
Coming to Canada in 1969, Honda Canada now has five offices across the country, in addition to its manufacturing plant in the southwestern Ontario town of Alliston. The plant produces nearly 400,000 Honda vehicles annually, including the Honda Civic, Honda CRV, the Acura ZDX, and the Acura MDX models.
“Last year, 96 per cent of all the products we sold in Canada were built in North America,” Jerry Chenkin, Executive Vice-President at Honda Canada, told The Canadian Business Journal. “We’re building products by Canadians for Canadians; we don’t consider ourselves to be a foreign company.”
Green Factory Program
Offering not only a range of first class vehicles, Honda (and its Acura division) also offers top-of-the-line motorcycles, ATVs, and power equipment. Adding to these product offerings, over the next few years Honda Canada wants all of its products to be more environmentally friendly, with reduced emissions and improved fuel economy in mind.
“One of Honda’s core values is ‘Blue Skies for Our Children’, which is the environmental portion of our business,” Chenkin explained. “The environment has always been very important to Honda, even before it became important to the rest of the industry.
Blue Skies for Our Children represents the “environmental vision that future generations can experience the joy and freedom of mobility while living in a sustainable society,” reads the Honda Canada website.
“Honda’s comprehensive approach to environmental innovation is central to achieving our vision of a sustainable future. These technologies include a natural gas vehicle, hybrids, and fuel cell electric, battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, along with new energy creation and distribution technologies, including Honda’s original solar cells.”
Honda Canada has set a goal to reduce all vehicle carbon dioxide emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2020, on par with emission levels in 2000.
“Honda started considering the environment many years before anyone was considering the impact of the business on the environment,” Chenkin said. “The fact that Honda has so many buildings in North America that are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified comes as no surprise, as this is part of our culture and this is what we do.”
Accordingly, the new head campus of Honda Canada is LEED Gold certified and has received certification from the Canada Green Building Council. The new campus highlights innovation with optimized energy performance, improving energy efficiency, better use of natural light, and underground storage of rainwater for irrigation usage.
“Our facility in Alliston was one of the first Honda plants to be ISO-14001 certified and it currently recycles 99 per cent of its production waste,” reads the company website. “It is the first Honda facility in North America to achieve this.”
Honda states that its environmental commitment goes beyond automobiles.
“If you were to walk around the new Honda campus in Markham, Ont., you’d realize that our commitment to protecting and sustaining the Canadian environment is something we’re very serious about,” reads the Honda Canada website. “Despite the tough economic times, Honda is committed to investing in our future in Canada as a corporate citizen.”
Dealing with disaster
It must be noted, however, that while the automotive industry certainly took a hit from the economic recession, recent natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific also slowed an already sluggish recovery in the automotive sector.
“The recession was one very important impact on our business, but last year of course the tsunami and earthquake in Japan, and the flooding in Thailand, those three disasters really impacted our business,” Chenkin said. “We were not able to supply the kind of products that are customers were looking for.”
Thankfully, Honda Canada has returned to full production. Honda Canada has successfully overcome its challenge of obtaining electronic components that were sourced from factories in the earthquake zone of Japan and the flooding area of Thailand.
“Even though the products are built here in North America, our production was slowed down for most of the year,” Chenkin explained. “We have now sourced those components from other suppliers or from the same suppliers in other locations.”
Chenkin is quick to attribute company success to not only the dealer networks of Honda Canada, which continually satisfy global customers, but also outstanding products supported by great marketing, as well as its 4,700 associates at various sites across Canada.
“We couldn’t do this without the many millions of customers we have had since 1969 who have supported our brand and have enjoyed our products,” Chenkin added.
Honda Canada attributes three core values to its competitive difference. Honda Canada is distinguished because the product it offers is fun to drive, it is environmentally friendly, and it is of first class quality.
“We have come to realize that after last year’s very tough business environment, and of course all the tragedies that affected so many people, we appreciate how strong the relationship is between us and our associates and our dealers and our customers,” Chenkin concluded. “We are very thankful for that great relationship because it got us through one of the worst years in our history.”