YSU Grad Helps Lead 2021 Acura TLX Launch

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — When the 2021 Acura TLX hits dealerships this fall, the Ohio-designed and built sedan will have a connection to the Mahoning Valley.

Area native and Youngstown State University graduate Kelly Ziccardi, engineering coordinator for Honda of America Mfg. Inc., is a new model project leader in the new model department at Honda’s Marysville Auto Plant, where mass production of the 2021 TLX sports sedan began Friday. The vehicle is expected to arrive at dealerships Sept. 28.

The 2021 TLX was designed, developed and manufactured by a team of Acura employees in Ohio and California, and features a new Acura-exclusive platform engineered for the brand’s Type S levels of performance. The TLX and the TLX Type S high-performance variant will be built at Honda’s Marysville Auto Plant.

Powertrains for the TLX – including the 2.0-liter DOHC VTEC Turbo powering the standard TLX and an all-new 3.0-liter Turbo for the TLX Type S – will be made at the company’s state-of-the-art engine plant in Anna, according to a company release.

“We are incredibly proud to deliver Precision Crafted Performance for our Acura clients with a TLX that sets a new bar for performance and premium quality in an Acura sedan,” said Marysville Auto Plant General Manager Bill Easdale. “Our associates are dedicated to ensuring the highest level of quality with this new TLX, which comes on the heels of an incredibly successful Acura RDX sport-utility vehicle and the electrified NSX supercar, all made exclusively in Ohio.”

Past iterations of the TLX sometimes the Honda Accord platform, Ziccardi says, but the 2021 model is brand new with a high-accuracy body. The team in Marysville has worked hard to refine it.

“Anytime we do something the first time, that is a challenge,” she says. “We have to basically create that structure and that process to have it be successful when it comes to fruition.”

It’s the first full model change Ziccardi’s been a part of since she started at Honda 13 years ago. In 2007, she joined Honda as a staff engineer after graduating from YSU where she majored in industrial assistance engineering and was named Engineering Woman of the year for the class of 2007. She actually started working for Honda while attending YSU through a co-op plan, she says.

“Upon graduation, I had a position waiting for me,” she says.

After graduation, Ziccardi started in Honda’s Engineering Development Program, through which she worked on a number of projects before transferring to the paint department and technical planning group. While in the paint department, she got her first taste of working on a new model project as bumper paint project leader for the 2013 Accord and 2014 Accord FHEV.

In 2013, she became the coordinator for the Engineering Development Program at the Marysville plant, where she mentored entry-level engineers and helped expose them to multiple plants, divisions and departments within the company.

Wanting to get back into new model work, she applied for a position in the new model department at Marysville. The company placed Ziccardi with a woman who was retiring so she could learn the ropes, she says. Upon the employee’s retirement, Ziccardi assumed her position in 2017 when she began work on the TLX project, working closely with the project lead,

“I’ve been with the project since I started the department. It takes quite a while for a project to come to fruition here,” she says. “I was just excited to be placed on a project this large and work with all these experienced people.”

As new model project leader for the TLX, Ziccardi’s was responsible for planning and scheduling each production event throughout the project, she says. That includes scheduling trial runs or practice runs of building the model prior to mass production.

Such an event requires bringing together the different departments and teams and ensuring everyone is prepared for the production, then ordering and purchasing all of the necessary parts, she says. Her time as the Engineering Development Program manager provided her the skills necessary to manage that many people. And rotating around the company got her familiar with how the different departments operate.

“I got to meet people at all those locations and understand what the work is at all those locations,” she says. “You can really make your own path, which I’ve really taken advantage of. I enjoy learning new things and seeing what else I can get involved in. It keeps it exciting.”

Additionally, her time at YSU and the internships she had there “prepared me for the manufacturing environment,” she says. Her family has a background in either teaching or engineering, “so math is a strong suit,” she says.

“I always enjoyed problem-solving and tackling challenges and seeing how to solve those problems,” she says.

Born and reared in Warren, Ziccardi graduated from Mineral Ridge High School in 2002, where she was class valedictorian. She and her husband, who is from Poland, live in Marysville with their son, but still make their way back home. For the last nine years, Ziccardi has been an active fundraiser and team member for the Relay for Life events of Mahoning County and Poland.

Pictured: Kelly Ziccardi, engineering coordinator, Honda of America Mfg. Inc., and new model project leader in the new model department at the Marysville Auto Plant, with the 2021 Acura TLX.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.