2020 Honda City: CKD production in full swing, Melaka factories upgraded to be on par with Honda Japan

Local assembly of the 2020 Honda City at Honda Malaysia’s assembly plants in Pegoh, Melaka has gone in full swing, ahead of the fifth-generation B-segment sedan’s big debut in October. While not confirmed, there could be as many as four variants on offer, including the most advanced City RS e:HEV variant with the new i-MMD hybrid powertrain.

Our source from Honda Malaysia said local assembly preparations for the City RS i-MMD hybrid began as early as five years ago. This timeline provided a sufficiently large window to equip both the No. 1 Line and No. 2 Line factories with upgraded machineries, robots and tooling. Improvements have also been made across the production lines, from assembling the shell and body panels, welding and paint processes, to final inspection phases.

For welding, the fifth-gen City goes through an additional, fully robotised “inner welding” process, which helps improve the car’s structural rigidity. Then, it goes through a six-stage painting process, which includes submerging the entire shell in a pool of anti-corrosion agent, as well as a water bath to check for leaks.

These steps are said to improve the production quality of its CKD cars, and at the same time accommodate some of Honda Motor Company’s most advanced production equipment. These upgrades were largely necessitated by the introduction of the City i-MMD hybrid in Malaysia, which is the first country in the world to get the car. This also means the plant is capable of producing other i-MMD models in the future.

The new i-MMD powertrain and IPU

In order for the City i-MMD hybrid to benefit from EEV tax breaks, at least 30% of all its main components (which includes the hybrid powertrain, driveline systems, body and interior parts) must be locally sourced. Even the hybrid battery pack, known as the Intelligent Power Unit (IPU), is methodically assembled by hand in a static-free, temperature controlled (constant 25 degrees) environment.

Honda Malaysia said it has taken several measures to ensure that no faulty IPUs get delivered to customers. One way of doing this is to assemble and install the batteries in a car within 180 days from the date the lithium-ion cells are manufactured. This alone significantly reduces the defect rates, but in case a faulty IPU is produced, it either gets returned to the manufacturer, or responsibly recycled by Honda Assembly Malaysia.

The i-MMD’s 1.5 litre Atkinson-cycle i-VTEC engine is also assembled in this facility via a 19-step procedure. The previous Sport Hybrid i-DCD hybrid powertrain was also built in the same premise, by the way.

Other upgrades include a more uniformly lit paint inspection bay (as seen in the picture above) to help reduce paint defects, as well as repurposing old spray booths for a new spray foam injection process to fill hollow cavities in the City’s lower frame. This process is claimed to improve NVH levels by 33%.

Honda Malaysia has invested quite a sum to improve its CKD operations. Presently, the company said the new City i-MMD production line is just as sophisticated as Honda Japan. Production training for the fifth-generation Honda City also began well over a year ago, so now it’s all systems go.

Production capacity, however, remains unchanged. Both plants are still capable of outputting 100,000 passenger cars (combined) annually. The facility also has a 2.1-km test track, an R&D facility, and several pre-delivery inspection centres with a combined capacity to house close to 16,000 new cars at a time.

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