Honda starts Odyssey minivan production, FCA US ships Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo

Honda starts Odyssey minivan production, FCA US ships Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo

Minivans in the news as self-driving vehicle tests expand in Arizona, production begins in Alabama.

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Cleveland, Ohio – Tuesday was van day in the automotive industry with Honda models moving off the line in Alabama and Chrysler models driving themselves down the road in Arizona.

In Lincoln, Alabama, production of the 2018 Honda Odyssey minivan went into full production, prepping the family carrier for a spring 2017 launch. More than 1,500 employees gathered at the plant to celebrate the first model coming off the assembly line.

"This is a celebration for our entire Honda team of associates who have been committed to bringing an all-new, high tech, family-friendly Odyssey to our customers," said Jeff Tomko, president of HMA.

Honda Manufacturing of Alabama (HMA) produces the Odyssey, Pilot sport utility vehicle, and Ridgeline pickup Honda models; the Acura MDX large crossover, and V-6 engines for each of the vehicles.

While Honda employees in Alabama started new minivan production, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA US LLC) was shipping 500 Chrysler Pacific Hybrid minivans to Waymo, Google’s self-driving car division. The new shipment brings to 600 the number of minivans FCA US LLC has supplied for self-driving testing.

Waymo is recruiting people in Phoenix, Arizona, to use self-driving minivans for everyday tasks in an attempt to better understand typical driving patterns.

“The collaboration between FCA and Waymo has been advantageous for both companies as we continue to work together to fully understand the steps needed to bring self-driving vehicles to market,” said FCA US LLC CEO Sergio Marchionne.

John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo and the former U.S. chief for Hyundai called the Pacifica “a versatile vehicle for our early rider program, which will give people access to our self-driving fleet to use every day, at any time. This collaboration is helping both companies learn how to bring self-driving cars to market, and realize the safety and mobility benefits of this technology.”

Waymo and FCA have co-located engineers at a facility in southeastern Michigan to accelerate the overall development process. In addition, extensive testing was carried out at FCA’s Chelsea Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan, and Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca, Arizona, as well as Waymo test sites in California.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and DesignHe has written about the automotive industry for more than 17 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

rschoenberger@gie.net