MARYSVILLE, Ohio - Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. has added three new investment options and other new features to its $200 million 401(k) plan.
On Jan. 1, Honda will add the PIMCO Total Return institutional fund, the MFS Emerging Growth fund and the Templeton Foreign Fund. Five funds managed by Merrill Lynch Group Employee Services, Princeton, N.J., will be retained - the International Holding, Government Obligations, Federal Securities, Capital and Basic Value mutual funds.
Honda also will change the record-keeping system to daily valuation from monthly, moving to Merrill Lynch from Hewitt Associates L.L.C., Lincolnshire, Ill.
An enhanced voice-response system, also from Merrill Lynch, will offer operator service from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., catching workers from all three shifts, said Kim Ryan, assistant manager of benefits. A loan feature also will be added.
Honda's 11,800 manufacturing and corporate staff employees said they wanted more aggressive investment options and more detailed benefits statements.
They also said they disliked the plan's fully automated "Benefit Express" voice-response system - which had been provided by Hewitt - because there is no connection to an operator for more complicated inquiries, she said.
Ms. Ryan also said the company hoped the changes would encourage employees to push plan participation up past its current 79%.
While Honda has been intensifying employee communications and investment education during the past couple of years, the plan changes have spurred a new education blitz.
The new campaign includes investment seminars, educational videos, a poster campaign and short spots on retirement plan changes aired on closed circuit television in cafeterias and break areas.
A letter from senior management endorsing the changes and payroll stuffers are urging both workers already participating to pay attention to new plan features, and non-participants to enroll in the plan, Ms. Ryan said.
Part of the new push is focusing on encouraging employees to increase their salary deferrals above the 6% on which the company makes a 50% match.
Honda only has 30 retirees now, Ms. Ryan said, adding 400 more are eligible to retire during the next three years. "We're working to help them prepare by encouraging them to save more."