Soichiro Honda

As of today, Honda Motor Company is a major manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles in the world. In addition to producing superior automobiles and motorcycles, Honda also produces power equipment such as lawn mowers, ATVs and portable generators. While having facilities throughout the world, Honda Headquarters is based in Tokyo, Japan.

A genius, a man before his time who led to the birth of a great motor company, we all should know as Honda. That man is the founder of Honda, Soichiro Honda. He was a mechanical engineer who was very devoted to automobile racing and motorcycles. Honda was very successful in the motor industry. He produced and received a patent for his innovative metal wheel spokes. He also made piston rings and sold it to Toyota. You see everyone knew that Honda knew what he was doing, even before he made it big. In 1948, Honda founded Honda Motor Company and made motorcycles. With Honda behind the wheel of the company, he managed to double the horsepower of the conventional four-stroke engine. This accomplishment put them ahead of everyone else for approximately 20 years.

Soichiro Honda was born in Hamamatsu, in the Shizuoka Prefecture of Japan, in 1906. His father owned a blacksmith’s shop and repaired bicycles as a sideline. As a teenager, Soichiro Honda was apprenticed to a car repair shop in Tokyo, but business was slack as there were few cars in the city at that time. However, after the devastation of the 1923 earthquake, the government decided to invest in mechanized mass transit. Honda found his services in heavy demand.

During this relatively prosperous time, Soichiro Honda embarked on a number of his own projects, displaying an exceptional gift in technical innovation. He even hand-built racing cars which notched up a string of victories on the Japanese circuit. Founding his own business in the 1930’s, Mr. Honda tested his talents behind the wheel of a racing car, but an accident effectively ended his career as a competitive driver. He then studied metallurgy, and started a business producing engine parts.

After the devastation of World War II, Mr. Honda revived his business by fitting war surplus engines to bicycles. The intuitive and innovative former mechanic concentrated on designing and manufacturing products, which appealed to him - starting with motorcycles. In 1948, the company, which was to become a global giant, took root as Japan’s post-war economy took its first, bold steps towards expansion.

A partner, Mr. Takeo Fujisawa, looked after the commercial side of the new enterprise, leaving Mr. Honda free to design and test. In those early days, they worked in harmony out of a tiny rented factory, often going for months without engaging in serious business discussion, each having total faith in the other’s ability to handle his own domain. They worked like this for nearly four decades, even when the Honda Company had established itself as a major multi-national business, until both retired from active participation in the company in 1973.

You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda

In 1957, a W. Arthur Bosley, an executive with the Sydney-based car sales company, Bennett & Wood, was asked to visit Japan to scout for potential opportunities in the newly re-emerging Japanese automotive industry. At that time, the most popular motorcycle brands in Australia were BSA, Triumph, AJS, and Norton. They all had a well-established market, but their staid designs had been updated little over a number of years. The Honda motorbike Mr. Bosley had seen in Tokyo was fresh looking, modern.

Of course, motorcycle was still almost a dirty word then, associated with the sort of leather-jacketed biker gangs portrayed in the film, The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando. To counter the image, Honda launched a very successful advertising campaign with the slogan, ‘You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda’.

Sales surged and by 1962, Honda was able to announce that it had produced one million motorcycles in a single year - the first company ever to do so. Thanks, in part, to Mr. Bosley, Honda’s Australian market share reached a staggering 65%. Honda’s advertising slogan during the 60s - ‘Taking The Honda Road’ - reflected the company’s growing confidence.
Soichiro Honda was already hatching his plan to become not just a carmaker, but also the best carmaker in the world.

The two-seater Honda S600 sportster was launched in Japan in 1963 and arrived in Australia two years later, the first Honda car to be seen on Australian roads. The newly constituted Bennett Honda was given the distribution rights, and Arthur Bosley proudly unveiled Honda’s first four-wheeler to a press conference held at Sydney’s Coogee Beach Hotel on 20th January 1965. The sophisticated, if unorthodox, S600 had four-wheel independent suspension, and a tiny, four cylinders, water-cooled, twin overhead cam engine with four carburetors. It delivered a top speed of 145 km/h.

It was an extraordinary gamble to launch such a car in a market dominated by big American-style cruisers - a gamble made even riskier by early technical hitches and buyers’ complaints about the engine’s noise. Nevertheless, the S600 gained its enthusiasts. During the latter half of the 1960s and early 1970s, Honda launched an ever-broadening range of cars in Australia, including the S800, the Scamp, the Z, and the 1300 Coupe (a private project of Soichiro Honda). But the real success of Honda cars in Australia was yet to come.

First, there had to be a unified approach to selling Hondas in this country. Up until 1969, marketing had been somewhat piecemeal, with various dealer licenses spread throughout the individual states. A major step forward came with the arrival of Hidehiko Shiomi, on 4th February 1969. With a modest capital of $100,000, he established Honda Australia Pty. Ltd. The company’s initial profile was low key, to say the least, with Mr. Shiomi setting up offices in a small flat in the Melbourne inner suburb of South Yarra. However, an organization in Australia was now in place to ensure the successful marketing of an astonishing little car that was to rewrite automotive history worldwide: the Honda Civic.

The launch of the Civic in 1972 was greeted with rave reviews from the press and an ecstatic response from the buying public. It was Car of the Year in Japan, in 1972, and again the following year. Honda could not ship enough Civics from its Japanese plants to meet the international market demand. In Australia, its sales doubled during 1973, and again in 1974. One suburban dealer reported a jump from 40 cars sold per month to 800! And the spree was not confined to Australia.

Even a passing glance showed that the square-shaped Civic, with its wheels positioned in the corners of its small chassis, was a development of the enormously popular, British Mini, the creation of eccentric British designer, Alex Issigonis. Small, light, maneuverable, it was a practical four-cylinder runabout for all conditions, from congested city streets to open freeways and winding country roads.

The engine was quiet, slow-revving and virtually stress-free, yet it was anything but sedate. The first Civic could go from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.8 seconds, an acceptable time even by today’s standards, and could cruise at around 120 km/h.

Australians loved it. For one thing, it was an affordable urban car, which was fun to drive. And for a whole new generation of young car buyers, the Civic meant freedom.

In 1974, Mr. Tadashi Kume, who later became a company president but was then a relatively young engineer, was given a brief to develop a new car for the North American market. In 1976, he presented a prototype of a six-cylinder hatchback with a long nose ‘like a Mustang’ to a gathering of Honda America representatives. The car was called the Accord. By January 1979, just two years after its launch, more than 450,000 Accords had been sold worldwide. A decade later, the Accord was the top-selling car of any kind in the US market - and remained so for the next four and a half years.

The company, which Soichiro Honda founded just 45 years ago in that tiny rented factory in Tokyo, has grown quickly to be one of the world’s best-known corporations. It continues to bear, and build upon, its responsibility as one of the world’s most innovative and respected car markers, producing exceptional vehicles which not only out-perform rival models but are exceptionally safe, reliable and environmentally friendly.