Honda is kicking Memorial Day weekend off by launching mass production of its anticipated new 2016 Honda Pilot. More than 1,500 associates celebrated the start of production at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama on Thursday morning. The redesigned third-generation SUV was unveiled earlier this year in Chicago and will arrive in dealerships in mid-June.
“Today we celebrate the incredible dedication of our Alabama team to delivering an outstanding new Pilot that will set the course for others to follow,” said Jeff Tomko, president of HMA. “I want to congratulate our associates for their unqualified commitment to building a new Pilot of the highest quality that exceeds the expectations of our customers.”
The new Pilot is priced at $30,875, including destination fees, a mere $125 more than the current one, yet the new one is loaded with features that the old one lacked. Larger and more efficient, it also has the brand’s first nine-speed transmission. Plus. the third-row seats are easier to access.
Honda reportedly hopes the three-row SUV’s new modern design will help the automaker sell about 120,000 Pilots a year, about an 11% increase over its sales in 2014. The automaker has sold 1.4 million Pilots in North America since it was introduced in 2002. This is its first redesign since 2008.
It seats up to 8 passengers and comes with a new 3.5-liter direct injection V6 engine under the hood. It’s the same engine as the one in the latest generations of the Honda Accord sedan and Acura MDX, but it is tweaked for the Pilot.
“Candidly, we could not be more excited or confident in the capabilities of this new vehicle,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda
All three generations of the Honda Pilot have been designed and developed in America by Honda R&D Americas, Inc. at its Los Angeles design studio and Raymond, Ohio R&D center.
“Our U.S.-based development team lives with the midsize family SUV everyday and we have applied our deep understanding into the development of this best ever, third-generation Pilot,” said Marc Ernst, chief engineer at Honda R&D Americas in Raymond, Ohio and development leader for the new Pilot. “We advanced Pilot’s dual-purpose character by increasing both family utility and personal sophistication to meet the needs of the driver and passengers in every dimension of their life.”
Honda’s Manufacturing plant in Alabama also makes the Honda Odyssey minivan, Ridgeline pickup and Acura MDX crossover. It will also start production on an all-new Honda Ridgeline pickup early next year. Over the past three years Honda has invested more than $508 million to improve production at that plant to make its production process more flexible.
The new Pilot is expected to arrive in dealer showrooms around June 18.