The Only Supercar Made in America Is the 2020 Acura NSX
From Ohio with love.
The 2020 Acura NSX is a daring, visceral driving machine. Its mid-mounted V6 and electric motor triad, nine-speed dual-clutch transmission, and performance all-wheel-drive system make it a formidable track weapon. Zero to 60 comes in just 2.9 seconds. Top speed is 191 miles per hour. But before any of those theatrics can unfold, the spaceframe, powertrain, and body must be manufactured and carefully pieced together at the Acura Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) in Marysville, Ohio.
Acura is a Japanese company, but the NSX is the only American-built supercar. We were recently given an all-access pass to the spotless, one-shift facility to watch as talented men and women built, painted, and indoor-tested the NSX. It's also the home of the 2020 Acura TLX PMC Edition and forthcoming MDX PMC Edition, which will get the same loving, hand-built treatment by one of the 100 employees that work at the center.
The PMC opened its doors in 2016 ahead of the current-gen NSX's debut, and it hasn't stopped cranking out supercars since. It sports a unique modular layout; unlike most other auto factories, it doesn't have much in the way of equipment, tooling or permanent lines bolted to the ground. Assembly manager Jeff Britton told us that allows them to reconfigure the space on the fly "depending on vehicle or manufacturing needs that may arise from time to time."
To fully appreciate the atmosphere at a low-volume place like this, it helps to compare daily production numbers with those of the massive Honda Marysville Auto Plant down the road. On the day we visited, just six TLX PMC Editions were scheduled to be completed. At the regular factory? 180 TLXs in a single shift.
Unlike most European supercars, which have their aluminum chassis and spaceframes welded almost entirely by hand, Acura puts robots and humans on the same team to get the job done. The robots deliver the precise and repeatable work expected from a machine, while fleshy welders add that personal touch on final welds and supervise the overall quality.
"Competitors typically use manpower MIG welding and it creates a lot of torsion within the metal," Quality Assurance Manager Susan Dulik told us. "This is why our MIG welding is automated. It creates less heat and more specific dimensions to the weld."
The PMC is home to an eight-stage paint facility, which coats the NSX, TLX, and upcoming MDX PMC Editions in their special 15-layer paint jobs. There are two different bays for painting, one dedicated to the body and one for the chassis and other components. We didn't witness any parts taking a paint bath on that specific day, but we did see about two dozen freshly painted TLX bodies in glitzy Valencia Red Pearl awaiting assembly.
According to PMC plant manager Gail May, the paint shop itself is a zero-waste facility and it does not produce any sludge as a byproduct of the multiple chemicals used.
Due to the floor's flexible tooling strategy and the lack of assembly lines as a whole, the cars built at the PMC are wheeled on racks to the various work stations where workers painstakingly marry components together, bolt them down, torque them, and inspect them for variations from the established standard.
During our visit, we mainly witnessed work being performed on TLX models, although a handful of NSXs built right before our visit sat on the floor awaiting shipment. During the assembly process, employees do everything from installing engines and suspensions to performing final wheel alignments.
Acura also offers an "insider experience" to NSX buyers, welcoming buyers into the PMC to watch their own car undergo the final stages of assembly. They can even apply the finishing touches to their vehicles, like installing the build number plate on the engine cover or sticking on the Acura badges.
In order to not risk the pristine paint applied to the body, the NSX is built from the inside out, meaning that drivetrain and all interior components are fully assembled prior to mounting the painted body panels. But Acura goes even further with a whole system to safely perform its first drive tests indoors.
Thanks to a retracting vent system, an all-wheel-drive dyno, and a cutting-edge shakedown booth to test the suspension, the cars are quality checked inside the building before they’re given the final OK. This indoor shakedown also doubles as a factory break-in session, so buyers can safety take their NSXs to the limit immediately after leaving the dealership.
We watched as a TLX was driven into the shakedown booth to undergo a virtual test drive that included speed bumps and other harsh driving conditions. It then took a trip through the "wet booth," where it was blitzed with high-pressure water to check for possible water leaks around the cabin. Once that's done, and following a thorough detailing job, the cars are shipped to their respective customers/dealerships or driven away by the lucky few who opted for the insider experience.
The PMC, which also builds the race-winning NSX GT3 Evo race car, lies in the heart of Honda's gigantic Ohio manufacturing complex. Honda American Manufacturing (HAM) opened its doors on Sept. 10, 1979, meaning that its 40th anniversary is just around the corner. When it first opened, the company had just 64 employees on-hand to build Honda motorcycles. Today, HAM employs over 15,000 people—and it also builds the only supercar in America.