Photographs and episodes straight from Honda's History book, prepared on Honda's 50th Anniversary.
Limitless Dreams - An Outpouring of Passion
A period of turmoil for Honda and the rest of the world, yet a period in which Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa lived life to the fullest, striving towards dreams with creativity and a burning passion for success
This bicycle equipped with an auxiliary engine made from a small, remodeled unit that had served as a power generator for an old no. 6 military radio transmitter (1946). This engine marked the origin of Honda Motor, the start of a dream. Soichiro Honda's dreams were always grand, and in that spirit, he boldly took up the challenges before him.
Soichiro Honda established Honda Motor Co., Ltd., on September 24, 1948, in Itaya-cho, Hamamatsu, with capital of 1 million yen. In October of the following year, Takeo Fujisawa, who became Soichiro Honda's lifetime partner came aboard as managing director.
The two aimed to build the company into the world's top motorcycle maker. That goal was realized through the sale of the Super Cub C100 in August 1958, their participation in the Isle of Man TT Race in June 1959, and the opening of Suzuka Factory in April 1960.
The twelve years during which they pursued their dream of becoming number one worldwide was an era of confusion and turmoil for both Honda Motor and the rest of the world. Let's listen to the words of the people who along with Soichiro and Fujisawa lived their lives to the fullest amid the turbulence of that period, striving toward their dreams with creativity and a burning passion for success. The stories that illustrate the times reveal the "Hondaisms" that Honda and Fujisawa passed on to them.
Do You Remember September 24, 1948?
Encounter with a Cast-off Military Surplus Engine: The "Dream" Starts Here
Honda Characteristics Begin to Show: "Engineering without personality doesn’t have much value"
The Honda A-Type, Honda’s First Product on the Market
"Always Make Your Products Friendly:" An Attitude Prevailing from the Very First Product
The Appearance of a Full-fledged Motorcycle, the Dream D-Type
The "Joy of Manufacturing"
Takeo Fujisawa Joins Honda
E-Type: The Early Days of the "Honda 4-Stroke"
Using Direct Mail to Develop Sales Outlets for the Cub F-Type
If You’re Not the No.1 in the World, You Can’t Be No.1 in Japan
"Putting the Customer First"
Declaring Entry in the Isle of Man TT Races
"Mutual Trust and Friendship:" Communication from the Heart Sustained Honda
The First "Racing Laboratory on Wheels" Ran in the Mount Asama Volcano Race
Maintaining an International Viewpoint
A Product that Looks Good is also Good on the Inside
Quality Products have no International Boundaries
Competing for the First Time in the Isle of Man TT Race
Neighborhood Workshops and Super Factories always have "Dreams and Youthfulness"
The Challenging Spirit of Honda
The uniqueness of Honda's Associates shines through the accomplishment of each technical and logistical challenge undertaken.
The Civic which began selling in 1972, secured Honda's place in the automotive industry. In fact, the wor1dwide production volume for the six-generation series – an astounding l0 million units - was celebrated on May 31, 1995, at Suzuka factory.
Honda R&D Center was spun off from the parent company on July 1, 1960, becoming independent as Honda R&D Co., Ltd. This marked a major turning point, in that the company was to break away from its dependence on the work of a single genius, Soichiro Honda, in order to establish a system of development combining the talents of experts from many fields. At the same time, Honda also began the arduous journey toward becoming a full-fledged member of the automotive industry, testing prototype sportscars and mini trucks for mass-market in production.
We have herein selected fifty examples of challenging Honda projects dating from 1960. Each of these products helped make Honda what it is today, and in light of that we have conducted interviews with the people involved in their creation.
Here, the uniqueness of Honda associates comes shining through, as each technical and logistical challenge brings forth its own story of accomplishment.
Indeed, these stories can serve as an inspiration for all of us at Honda, and will help resolve any question concerning the essence of our work.
A System that Fosters Expertise
"We need to determine how we can continue our collective wisdom as an alternative to the genius of one man, then build a system that enhances us as a whole," said Senior Managing Director Takeo Fujisawa during a management study meeting held in May 1990. It was a meeting intended to resolve issues through contributions from the company's entire team of managers.
The term "genius" was, of course, Fujisawa's reference to company founder Soichiro Honda.
Fujisawa, who had long dreamed of advancing into the automobile industry, continued building an organizational system in which workers could be trained to become experts in various technical fields and ultimately realize their true potential.
A gathering to commemorate the opening of the Honda R&D Co.’s new building in November 1961.
In May 1956 Honda unified the Engineering Design division of the Saitama and Hamamatsu Factories by establishing the Head Office Design Division within the Shirako Plant. His action indeed smoothed the way for the R&D Center’s eventual independence. In June 1957 the R&D Center was launched as a center having a system that was identifiably separate from the Head Office and factories.
July 1, 1960, marked the day of independence for the R&D Center, which from that day forward was to be known as Honda R&D Co., Ltd. While it maintained its indivisible relationship with Honda Motor, the center created a system in which a progressive, adventurous spirit was promoted within a unique research structure. In November 1961, the new company building was completed in Saitama Prefecture's Yamato-cho, now the city of Wako.
Independence came to the Motorcycle Research and Development Division in November 1973, at which it was renamed the Asaka R&D Center. Thus the R&D Center in Wako assumed the new name "Wako R&D Center," and was to continue its specialization in the research and development of automobile and power products.
The Honda Racing Service (RSC) was established in March 1973 to handle motorcycle-racing activities, while in 1978 the New Racing (NR) Division was established at the Asaka R&D Center. The two were combined in September 1982 and renamed the Honda Racing Co., Ltd.
The Honda organization continued expanding its sphere of business, which the launch of Honda Carburetor Research Co., Ltd., in September 1974 for the research and development of fuel supply systems. This was followed by the establishment of the Accessories R&D Center in August 1976 for the development of automotive accessories; the Asaka Kita R&D Center for electronic control systems in April 1988, and the Asaka Higashi R&D Center for research and development of power products in May 1979.
Beginning in April 1982, the Automobile Development Group began its gradual relocation to a newly completed facilities in Haga-machi, Tochigi Prefecture. In April 1986, the group became known as the Tochigi R&D Center.
The Wako Research Center was restructured during this period in order to secure a research system that could foster important and innovative technologies. In January 1991, the center was launched under the new name Wako Basic Engineering Center.
A high-speed test course constructed specially for Honda Motor was completed on the banks of the Arakawa River in May 1958. Later, in April 1979, the Tochigi Proving Center was completed in the Takanezawa Industrial Complex in Haga, Tochigi Prefecture, as a complete test-course facility. In May 1996, Takasu Proving Center, an expansive test center, was opened in Takasu-cho, Hokkaido. These centers made it possible to perform test-drivers under conditions simulating those found on major road systems throughout the world.
The Honda Proving Center of California (HPCC) was completed in May 1990 amid the great expanses of the Mojave Desert. Earlier, in January 1988, HAM acquired the Transportation Research Center (TRC), formerly a research institute run by Ohio State University. This center was transformed into the testing facility for HRA-O in March 1992. Both HPCC and TRC have seven and a half mile oval test tracks.
Honda's major overseas R&D bases are:
Honda R&D Americas, Inc., Los Angeles Center (HRA-LA)
Honda R&D Americas, Inc., Ohio Cneter (HRA-O)
Honda R&D Europe (Deutschland) G.M.B.H. (HRE-G)
Honda R&D Europe (U.K.) Ltd. (HRE-U.K.)
Honda R&D Southeast Asia (HRS)
Honda R&D Thailand (HRT)
The My Record project was implemented throughout the entire company in July 1960. It was the brainchild of Takeo Fujisawa (then the senior managing director), who believed that the record of daily activities of those who work at the company would reflect the organization's corporate growth.
A special Honda newsletter titled "Seeking Originality in Systems" was issued in August 1965. In it the membership of the Board of Directors announced that the need had been established for a system that would define the means for workers to be promoted as experts in their chosen fields; a system that allowed them to work to their highest potential at all times. The following October it was announced to all employees that a system of certification would soon be established.
The Certification System Committee was set up in August 1966. Research was first conducted experts emerged from the Technical Division as technical advisers, engineers and supervising engineers. In May 1969, additional certifications were given in divisions such as Technical Management, Sales, and Accounting, with the highest designation begin that of executive chief engineer.
The Certification System was partly revised in October 1994, with the reexamination of managerial certifications and the establishment of new technical certifications.
A Dream Come True: Car Builder for the World
"Once when I was a kid, I run after a Ford Model T and held my nose up to the oil that sputtered out onto the ground. I took a whiff and was thrilled by the smell. That experience led to my making automobiles today." These were Soichiro Honda's words upon achieving a place in America's Automobile Hall of Fame in October 1989. It all started when, in May 1961, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) announced the Japanese government's basic policy on automobiles (later called the Specified Industry Promotion Bill). This, Honda's long held dream of joining the auto industry had suddenly become a reality.
Honda exhibited its first automobiles the S360, S500, and T360 at the 9th Tokyo Motor Show in October 1962.
The Third Research Section was launched at Shirako Plant's R&D Center in September 1958. Starting with the XA710, a prototype mini automobile based on the "people's car" concept announced in May 1955, the section continued its development of vehicles such as the XA190, a two-seater sportscar, and the XA120, a mini truck.
MITI's May 1961 announcement of the basic policy on automobiles (later the Specified Industry Promotion Bill) meant that no new comers would be allowed to join the car industry. To establish production records showing that cars had been built before the law took effect, in January 1962, Honda immediately began manufacturing prototypes of mini sportscars and trucks.
A Honda Sports S360 driven by Soichiro himself, blasted around the track at the Suzuka Circuit, still under construction, at the 11th National Assembly of the Association of Honda Dealers held on June 5, 1962. As he zoomed past the main grand stand, the crowd in attendance watched in awe and amazement, seeing with their own eyes the accomplishments of the man and his young, energetic car company. The T360 mini truck also was exhibited that day, and together the three – a sportscar, a truck, and the man who said the vehicles would be built – made their statement: Honda had made a place for itself in the industry.
Honda began building Service Factories (SF) nationwide in July 1964, and by April 1966, Honda had established three new operations: Honda Used Car Sales Co., Ltd.; Honda Sales Research Co., Ltd.; and Honda Finance Co., Ltd. The move was part of program to establish a support system and structure that would allow dealers to concentrate on sales. Moreover, it provided the means for motorcycle dealers to become car dealers.
The construction of sales offices began in December 1966 in major cities across the nation. By the following spring, a network of seventy offices had been established
Honda's first mini passenger automobile, the N360, was introduced on October 21, 1966. With maximum output of 31 horsepower, a top speed of 115 kilometers per hour, and gas mileage of 28 kilometers per liter, its performance was comparable to many small passenger cars of the time. Added to that were features such as a spacious interior that comfortably seated four adults and safety considerations that fully exceeded the traditional concept of a mini automobile. The following December, Honda announced that its new car would sell for 313,000 yen , a price that caused quite a stir among consumers.
The Honda 1300 small passenger automobile made its debut in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya on October 21, 1968. Equipped with the world's first revolutionary DDAC(Duo Dyna Air Cooling System) engine , the product represented Honda's hopes of breaking into the market for small passenger cars.
Honda's CVCC low pollution engine design was formally revealed on October 11, 1972. The engine was sent to the Emissions Laboratory of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S., and was tested in the presence of officials in late December 1972. The new engine was the first to pass the 1975 regulations under the Muskie Act.
The Civic, Honda's new small passenger car, was introduced in July 1972. A trapezoid-shaped, two box FF2, Civic represented a completely new concept for the automotive world. What resulted was a new phase of activity in the small-car segment.
Honda came out with its Accord CVCC 1600 in May 1976. The attractive, well-equipped hatchback model, which satisfied a variety of daily needs, immediately assumed an important role in Honda's global marketing strategy.
Civic and Accord quickly evolved as key models and world-famous cars, supporting Honda's production and sales both domestically and overseas.
Marketing Globally, Producing Locally
"Once an excellent foreign product is imported, a product that is number one only in Japan will immediately lose its place. Only when you are first in the world can you be first in Japan." (from Honda's internal magazine issued in October 1954)
It was merely the fourth year after launching his business when Soichiro Honda talked of his dream of becoming the world's premier products manufacturer. He demanded that all employees improve their products to a global standard, in keeping with his foal of conquering the world market.
Thus, Honda's overseas expansion began with the exportation go motorcycles. Honda continued its strategic expansion of corporate activity by building a sales network for the United States, and by producing motorcycles, automobiles, and power products at plants located around the world.
The history of Honda therefore reflects its founder's philosophy of "building products in the market where they are sold." It is a philosophy that has throughout the years ensured that customers everywhere are able to obtain quality Honda products.
Honda's overseas expansion began in 1952 when the Cub Type F motorcycle was first exported to Taiwan. That October, the Dream was exported to Okinawa and the Philippines. In September 1954, the Juno was exported to the United States on a trial basis.
Continental Expansion – North, South, and Central America
American Honda Motor (AH) was established in Los Angeles in June 1959, marking the start of Honda's expansion overseas. The quest was to find a market for motorcycles and to win the satisfaction of American consumers, and so through the efforts of AH a sales network was created. A decade later, in 1969, the company sold the small N600 automobile in Hawaii and in the process gained a foothold in the competitive field of automobile sales. In March 1986, AH established the Acura dealer network as a second sales channel for automobiles, bringing "precision" and "performance" to the forefront of consumer values.
Honda of America Manufacturing (HAM) was established in February 1978 in the Midwestern state of Ohio, and began the production of motorcycles in September 1979. In November 1982, the first Accord rolled off the assembly line, making Honda the first Japanese car-maker to manufacture automobiles in the U.S.
Honda established Honda Power Equipment (HPE) in the Southeastern state of North Carolina in August 1983, the first overseas plan for power products. In August 1984, the company began producing lawn mowers.
Honda of Canada Manufacturing (HCM) began the production of Accords in November 1986.
Honda's production bases for Central and South America are located in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru.
Expansion in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East
Honda established European Honda (EH, now Honda Deutschland) in Hamburg, West Germany, in June 1961, ensuring its entry into the coveted European market. In September 1962, Honda established Honda Belgium (BH), a moped production plant in the city of Aalst. Not only was this Honda's first production facility within the EEC region, but it was also the first plant for any Japanese company.
Honda took its first step toward European auto production in December 1979, when it signed an agreement for technical collaboration with British Leyland Ltd. (now Rover Group Ltd.). In February 1985, Honda established Honda of the U.K. Manufacturing (HUM) in Swindon, England, and in October 1992 brought the first European-specification Accord off the assembly line.
Honda France Industriel (HFI, now HEPE) began production of lawn mowers and tillers in June 1986.
Honda now has additional European production bases in Italy, Spain, and Turkey.
Major production bases for Africa and the Middle East are located in Nigeria, Pakistan , and Iran.
Expansion in Asia and Oceania
Honda established offices in Singapore and Malaysia in 1963, actively preparing for entry into the growing Southeast Asian market.
Honda established Asian Honda, a company for motorcycle and power products sales, in Bangkok, Thailand, in October 1964. In April 1965, Thai Honda Manufacturing (TH), a production base for motorcycles and general-purpose engines, was established for local production.
Honda established Honda Cars Manufacturing Thailand (HCMT) in August 1992, thereupon starting the production of passenger vehicles. In April 1996, a new auto plant was built in Ayutthaya for production of the City model, a car created specifically for the Asian market.
Honda now has major production bases in Asia and Oceania, including India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Australia. Many production facilities have been achieved with local partners, enhancing their corporate activities.
Honda's overseas production bases as of September 1998, numbered 102 in 34 countries. It meets approximately 10 million customers each year through sales of its motorcycles, automobiles, and power products.
A Refreshing New Development
Honda, left, and Fujisawa, right, share smiles at the All Honda Idea Contest held in 1972.
Retirement for founder Soichiro Honda and his partner and executive vice-president, Takeo Fujisawa, came in October 1973, on the 25th anniversary of the company's establishment. With that, came a new president: 45-year-old Kiyoshi Kawashima. The fact that family members were not chosen as successors lent a refreshing tone to the retirements, which came when both Honda and Fujisawa were in their 60s. Moreover, the event marked the company's transition from the period of foundation to one of growth and innovation.
Managing directors Kiyoshi Kawashima, Kihachiro Kawashima, Michihiro Nishida, and Takao Shirai, were all promoted to the senior managing director in April 1970. Thus, the so-called Collective Leadership System was founded. It was, in fact, a major strategic move toward the retirement of Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa.
The "dollar crisis" resulting from the currency's shift to a floating exchange rate hit Japan in a big way during the early ‘70s, testing the power and integrity of the country's corporate management system. Subsequently, in April 1972, Honda's Board of Directors announced in the Supervisors' News magazine that a drastic change in corporate structure would take place. The company would now employ the New Honda Plan (NHP) as a means of bolstering the organization. Mr. Kiyoshi Kawashima was to chair the project for the entire company, and by October of that year twelve young members ranging in ages from their 30s to 40s had become full-time participants in a major preparatory project.
April 1973 saw the launch of seventeen full-scale projects, through which all divisions of the company would endeavor to improve their systems. Concurrently, NH Circle activities began as part of NHP. As a result, the conventional QC Circle activities were greatly expanded.
45-years-old Kawashima, the new company president following the October 1973 retirement of Honda and Fujisawa, had led the NHP as the company's project chairman. However, only a month after he assumed his new post, Japan was hit by its first oil crisis. The management, under the new Kawashima regime, declared at the end of January 1974 that "Honda would not raise its automobile prices." This was despite the fact that prices were going up in several other sectors. Ultimately, the decision enabled Honda to survive this challenging time.
Honda, second from left, and Kawashima, third form left , at the inaugural reception for new company president Kawashima.
The All Honda NH Circle Meeting was in 1984 renamed the NH Circle World Meeting,
which brought together twenty circles of people based at Honda's overseas operations.
Plans were established in 1990 for a friendship exchange among NH circles worldwide, which were divided into four groups; Japan, Asia/Oceania, North America, and Europe. Despite a period of discontinuation, the inaugural NH Circle World Meeting was held at Honda of America Manufacturing in Ohio, U.S.A., in November 1996. With that, the Circle renewed its activities in the spirit of global cooperation.
Products Emerging From Technology and Innovation
"Only companies that understand the mind of the general consumer and manufacture products that create joy and passion will win their support. They alone will prosper."
These are the words of Soichiro Honda, as featured in the inaugural issue of the Honda Company Newsletter, which was published in June 1953. In the same article, Mr. Honda also explained his work philosophy, distilling it to its very essence:
"If one possesses a true commitment to customer service, or a keen sense of morality as an employee, then that person should do his or her best to incorporate new ideas and add improvements, in order to ensure the customer's satisfaction."
At Honda, generations of development engineers have carried forth the timeless philosophy of the company founder. As a result, the technologies and products created by the Honda organization have been unique and highly innovative for their times.
Honda initiated its NR (New Racing) project at the Asaka R&D Center in October 1978. It was at this point that development of new motorcycle technologies began, particularly with the 4-cycle, oval piston engine. The effort to create such a power plant was one in which numerous difficulties were encountered. In fact, on the racetrack the engine scored only one victory, by Kengo Kiyama on his NR500 at the All Japan Motorcycle Championships Suzuka 200-km Race held in June 1981. The program eventually bore fruit, however, when Honda introduced the NR750 in May 1992, and this model was powered by the new, 4-stroke oval engine.
Honda unveiled its N360 car equipped with the innovative Hondamatic transmission in March 1968, the first three-speed fully automatic transmission (AT) system for light automobiles. The new transmission also played a significant part in fueling the industry-wide development of AT models.
August 1981 saw the introduction of Honda's Electro Gyrocator, the world's first navigation system developed for use in automobiles. It was a pioneering achievement in navigation technology.
Honda produced 100 4-door Legends equipped with driver-side airbags in the spring of 1986, thus beginning the second fleet test for its new supplemental restraint system. The goal here was to attain the target reliability of Six 9s, or 99.9999%, in airbag deployment.
Honda introduced the world's first steering angle-linked 4-wheel system (4WS) in October 1986. The 4WS system, which eventually was incorporated in the Prelude model, featured dramatically enhanced dynamic performance.
Honda released an updated Integra in April 1989, featuring an engine employing the VTEC system, or Variable Valve Timing Lift Mechanism. Today VTEC technology continues to evolve as a key technology at Honda.
Honda debuted the G150 and G200 engines in June 1977 as part of its ME series of general purpose engines. The ME engine was developed as a base unit from which sister engines would be derived, as part of a sales program targeting one million units for the entire ME engine family. This goal was established in accordance with a plan to expand Honda Power Products within the Three Pillar Initiative.
The G150 and GX140 engines were introduced as part of Honda's ZE engine series in January 1983. The innovative "OHV plus inclined cylinder" design was subsequently adopted worldwide by makers of general-purpose engines.
The Dream CB750 FOUR was unveiled to the public in October 1968 as part of Honda's exhibit at the 15th Tokyo Motor Show. The new model was immediately hailed as the prime example of big-bike design in Japan, donning the now familiar name "Nanahan," meaning "seven and a half."
Honda began sales of CG110 and CG125 motorcycles in Thailand in March 1975. These models were developed through exhaustive market research involving developing countries. The CG125, in particular, played a vital role in the expansion of Honda's share in the Brazilian motorcycle market.
The Road Pal was introduced in February 1976 as a new scooter for the emerging family-bike market. Its instant popularity was helped along by a successful TV commercial that produced the classic phrase, "La-tta-tta."
Honda's City model was unveiled in November 1981. An exciting expression of passion among the young engineers of Honda, the City soon became a nationwide sensation. Contributing to the car's popularity was a whimsical ad featuring the unique "Centipede Dance" by the British group Madness.
The dramatic and daring NSX sports car made its U.S. debut at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1989, prior to the official launch in Japan. Featuring an all-aluminum body and absolutely stunning performance, the car drew world wide attention and won the hearts of Honda fans everywhere.
The innovative Honda Odyssey was introduced in 1994. Developed to meet the needs of modern lifestyles, the vehicle won the overwhelming support of consumers, who were impressed with this new Recreational Vehicle (RV) that drove like a passenger car.
An engineering project known as Honda EV Plus made its simultaneous debut in Japan and the U.S. in April 1996. The environmentally friendly body designed for electric vehicle applications amply demonstrated Honda's commitment to industry leadership in this important new ﬁeld.
Honda's E300 portable generator came before consumers in January 1965. Light enough to be carried easily with one hand, the product cultivated a new market among people who loved outdoor recreation.
The HR21 walk-behind lawn mower was introduced in August 1978, across key markets in Europe and North America. The new lawn mower successfully established Honda in the competitive ﬁeld of power lawn-and-garden equipment.
Honda's F200 compact tiller, affectionately known as "Komame," was introduced in March 1980. The machine became a best-seller among agricultural users and home gardeners alike, prompting major manufacturers of agricultural machinery to introduce their own compact tillers.
Posters courtesy of Honda Collection Hall
The Oval Piston Engine
The Hondamatic Transmission
The Car Navigation System
The Airbag System
Steering Angle Sensing Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS)
The VTEC Engine
The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series)
The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series)
The Dream CB750 FOUR
Production Technology: The Essence of Creative Manufaturing
Soichiro Honda had a dream: to build large volumes of quality products at a low cost. To achieve that dream, Honda Motor embarked on a quest for the ideal production methods. It was a quest that ultimately led to innovative technologies involving every aspect of the manufacturing process.
Honda's first step was to design equipment as an expression of the engineers' own ambitions. In an ongoing effort to uncover the essence of creative manufacturing, Honda created a number of original production technologies that transformed raw materials into high-quality products - including shortened line configurations that consolidated several steps at each station, and production systems that increased both productivity and flexibility. These technologies invigorated the ever-increasing competitiveness of Honda production, making possible the company's dramatic growth.
The S360 small sports car and T360 mini truck were unveiled at the National Honda Meeting in June 1962. The following September, the Manufacturing Machinery Division broke off from Saitama Factory's Shirako Plant, to become an independent facility.
Construction of the new Sayama Factory, a dedicated auto production facility, began in May 1964 at the Kawagoe/Sayama Industrial Park in Saitama Prefecture. Accordingly, the factory for the production of manufacturing machinery moved to Sayama that November, taking tip operation as Sayama Factory's plant for manufacturing equipment. In December, Honda established a metal-casting plant by consolidating its stamping divisions from all factories in Japan. This was a move that gave Honda the ability to enhance both the scope and cost-effectiveness of those operations.
The manufacturing machinery plant developed a general body welding system (GW) in 1967, through an initiative promoted by the Welding Group at Sayama Factory's N Special Planning Office. This welding system, which was notable as much for its shape as its effectiveness, was called "Battleship GW." Then, in 1969, a sliding-type GW was developed as the dedicated body welding system for the Honda 1300 passenger car, and was installed at Suzuka Factory. The following year, the same GW system was introduced into Sayama Factory, thus allowing each of those factories an identical welding capacity.
The sliding-type GW was installed at Suzuka Factory in preparation of the Honda 1300, which was scheduled to begin in May 1969 (photographed in February 1998)
On September 1, 1970, Sayama Factory's second plant became independent under the name Honda Manufacturing Machinery Co., Ltd. This division, which was to specialize in the area of tooling, was given the leading role in developing new production methods.
September 1, 1971, saw the new division in charge of mold/design/die tooling at the Sayama Factory's second plant incorporating PG and becoming independent as Honda's Body Engineering facility (BE). Then, on July 1, 1971, Honda integrated its Production Engineering Division, including the engineering groups in charge of bodies, machining, and injection molding, together with Honda Manufacturing Machinery, to establish Honda Engineering Co., Ltd. (EG). This represented a significant improvement in the scope and strength of its capabilities in production engineering and tooling.
Honda employed its cold-forging technology in January 1979 to develop the original SBJ/EGI constant-velocity joints. As a result, the production of all constant-velocity joints required for Honda automobiles was now under the direct control of the company. Then, in July 1980, Honda developed its new SM One-Pack production system for car bodies, installing it on line Number 2 at Suzuka Factory. By the end of that year, Honda had strengthened its engineering ties with British Leyland Ltd., providing BL with the technology for "white body" production.
The module transfer machine system long in development at EG finally went into operation at Hamamatsu Factory in December 1981, as part of the engine-processing facilities employed on the factory's first, large model motorcycle production line. Then, in November 1982, a new system for stamping dies and welding lines was installed by EG at Honda of America Manufacturing, for the production of Accord sedans. Significantly, it was the first Honda automobile to roll off the assembly line in the U.S.
EG's Kawagoe Plant was established in August 1984 for the purpose of increasing Honda Motor's production capacity. The objective here was to develop original and competitive tooling technologies - including ultra-grinding - and to apply them in actual production at the factory so that technical improvements could be more rapidly implemented.
In September 1990, EG established its Tochigi Research Center (EGT), thereby enhancing the company's capabilities in the effort to achieve dramatic new growth.
EG's U.S. office was established in May 1985 for the purpose of ensuring stable mass-production operations at Honda's North American plants. Toward that end, the US. office embarked on various engineering projects, including those involving improvements to equipment and facilities. Then, in April 1988, the U.S. office was incorporated as EGA (Honda Engineering North America, Inc.).
EG established its Thai 'Tooling Office (EG-B) in May 1988, in preparation for Honda's full-scale Asian operations. In October of that year, EG established its European office to undertake projects essential to the stability of its mass-production plants on that continent, including improvements to equipment and facilities. The European office was subsequently incorporated as EG-E (Honda Engineering Europe Ltd.) in May 1990.
A Neverending Passion for Racing
Involvement in motor sports is a key element in Honda's corporate culture. The roots of this ‘challenging spirit' can be found in founder Soichiro Honda's love of motorcycles, cars and racing, and above all his passionate dream of building the world's leading automobiles.
In July 1936, Soichiro Honda competed in the first All Japan Automobile Speed Racing Championship with his brother, Benjiro. The Honda team's four-cylinder Ford, which the brothers had personally prepared for the race, was cruising toward what seemed to be a runaway victory. However, just before the checkered flag their Ford, trying to avoid a car entering the course from the pit lane, lost control and overturned. Benjiro was thrown from the car, receiving serious injuries. For six months he remained hospitalized, suffering fractured bona and bruises all over his body. Soichiro sustained injuries to his face and left arm.
In the summer of 1949, Honda Motor, still a fledgling company, participated in the Japan-U.S. Friendship Race, the first motorcycle race held following the close of World War II. Honda won a victory with its C-model.
Honda then took part in the March 1954 International Road Race held in Brazil, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the city of Sao Paulo. The company's participation attracted a great deal of attention, since up to that time no Japanese machine had ever competed in a formally organized international event. Although driver Mikio Omura finished thirteenth with his R125, nicknamed "Dream," there was an obvious gap in terms of technological standards as compared to the European manufacturers that dominated the top positions.
That experience, combined with the remarkable performance pulled off by riders from the Honda Speed Club in Japan's Asama Highland Races (the name was changed to Asama Volcano Race from the second year onward) beginning in 1955, led to TT, a major challenge, Honda's participation in the isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) race, then the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world.
in 1961, Honda competed in TT races for the third time. There, the company dominated the 125-cc and 250-cc classes, winning the top five positions and producing all-podium wins in both. That year Honda also won the Manufacturers Championship titles in the 125-cc and 250-cc classes of the World Motorcycle Grand Prix Series.
Kunimitsu Takahashi putting in all his energy behind the handles at the 1961 Grand Prix held in the then West Germany
Soichiro Honda believed the company's machines could not improve if they were not raced. He felt that to allow motorcyclists and drivers to push their machines to the limit before the uncompromising eyes of throngs of spectators was the only way to test these machines and one day build the world's best. It was a passion that drove Soichiro toward his dream; the dream of building a full-scale circuit that would host international races.
The Suzuka Circuit, completed in September 1962, was the realization of that dream.
Honda went on hiatus from the World Motorcycle Grand Prix after the 1967 season, ultimately returning in 1979. That year, Honda competed with its four-stroke NR500. Then, after many struggles, the company came out with its two-cycle NS500 in 1982.
Honda's now-legendary reputation for racing performance continued to grow, when in 1985 the company debuted its NSR500, a machine with which riders Freddie Spencer and Michael Doohan rode to world championships.
Honda's entry in the World Formula 1 Grand Prix Series was announced in January 1964. Led by Yoshio Nakamura, Japan's first team manager appointed for Formula 1 Grand Prix operations, the Honda team competed in its inaugural Formula 1 race - the German Grand Prix - in August 1964, with an RA271 built on a Honda chassis and powered by a Honda engine. The team scored its first victory in the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix with an RA272, driven by Ritchie Ginther. However, Honda temporarily withdrew from Formula 1 racing following the close of the 1968 season. The decision was made after the company, seeking to become a full-ﬂedged manufacturer of passenger vehicles, had decided to concentrate its resources on the research and development of low-pollution engines and other more urgent programs.
John Surtees driving his RA273 in the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix
The year 1983 marked Honda's return to the World Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit. During this second phase in its Formula 1 history, Honda decided it would remain a supplier of engines. Thus, in the 1988 season Honda's V6 turbo engine achieved impressive results on a McLaren chassis, winning fifteen out of sixteen races. In 1987, the first Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix was held at the Suzuka Circuit, which created an Formula 1 boom that rocked the nation. And by the end of the 1992 season, which marked the completion of Honda's second phase of Formula 1 activity, the company had achieved an awesome record of six consecutive Constructors' Championship titles.
Honda revealed its plan for another return to Formula 1 on March 9, 1998, announcing that it was considering the details of its strategy. Accordingly, in the third phase Honda plans to form its own F-1 racing team for involvement in the overall aspect of racing, from the development and manufacture of machines to the management of its own team.
American Honda's announcement of entry to the PPG Indy Car World Series' 1994 season came in January 1993. Honda fought difficult battles during its first year with Indy, the first American motor racing series in which it had competed. Honda had to wait until the New Hampshire race - the last event in the 1995 season - to score a victory.
Honda won the Manufacturers Championship title, given to the best engine supplier. in 1996. In fact, the company's third year in Indy racing brought triple victories for Honda, with Alex Zanardi getting Rookie of the Year and Jimmy Vasser winning the Drivers Championship title. Honda repeated this ‘triple crown' in the 1998 season.
August 1997 marked the opening of Honda's Twin Ring Motegi venue in Tochigi Prefecture. It was the world's first racing venue complete with an oval super speedway and a road racing track. The facility's construction, the plan which had been announced in 1988, took more than nine years to complete. In March, 1998, CART racing, the most popular motor sports series in the United States, finally came In Japan. The race was held at Twin Ring Motegi.
Creativity – The Way to Work Harder, Play Harder
Efﬁciency is the art of exploiting time so that you can enjoy your private life." These are the words of Soichiro Honda, as quoted in his article, "Random Thoughts on Factory Management," which appeared in Honda Monthly News No. 21, published in 1953. The logic in such a statement is easy to see, since each day grants a mere 24 hours in which to accomplish the many tasks for which we are responsible. Therefore, when one's time is used to accomplish as much work as possible in the day, there will be more time left in which to enjoy personal life. Accordingly, that same creative energy can be applied to making your free time more fun. We call it the art of living, the Honda way.
In July 1953, a recreational organization formed by employee representatives, was inaugurated at Saitama Factory and Honda's head office. As honorary chairman of the Meiwa-kai group, Soichiro Honda congratulated the employee representatives at the inauguration ceremony. "Have fun and enjoy your youth," he said. "Use the recreational organization to energize yourselves for tomorrow's production." The following month, Hamayu-kai was inaugurated at Hamamatsu Factory. Recreational activities at Honda have since then been operated voluntarily by employee representatives, mostly through groups set up at factories and branch offices. The company has helped out with certain expense as well as with the procurement of equipment and facilities.
Legendary Kyoto was the site of a 15th anniversary celebration held in September 1963, when all 8,000 employees gathered to commemorate the founding of the company. The event was the brainchild of employees whose concept for the occasion was awarded grand prix from among 452 competing entries. The proposition, in fact, required a whopping 100 million yen to put it into effect. Based on this concept, representatives from all the recreational groups, including those at the factories and branches, got down to work on the execution of a plan - one that only three months later was to be played out at the gala event.
The All-Honda Friendship Games were inaugurated in 1969. Preliminary competitions were held, and subsequently the teams that won the preliminary games, which were organized by the recreational groups, gathered to compete for the All-Honda No.1 title in eleven sporting events, including baseball, softball, and soccer. The games played a big part in allowing young people to work off their energy, foster an atmosphere of teamwork, and build friendships with their colleagues.
In March 1970, the first All-Honda Idea Contest was held at the Suzuka Circuit. This contest came about after Mr. Honda, while observing an idea-and-costume team contest held the previous year during a sports festival at Sayama Factory (presently Sayama Plant of the same facility), expressed his delight by saying, ‘This is a sports festival of dreams and brains!" Indeed, many employees had made their dreams a reality by coming up with ideas while away from work. The event taught them that the reward that comes with innovation is as much in the hardship it requires as the joy it brings. The All-Honda Cultural Exhibition was founded in 1975. The event was an opportunity for those employees involved in culturally creative activities - such as painting, calligraphy, photography, and pottery - to exhibit their works. Some used the opportunity as a stepping stone to polish their talent and hold their own exhibitions, while others earned awards and honors at public exhibitions. As a result, circles of friends who shared the same interests were formed at some factories and branches. Still others formed groups among employees engaging in different creative activities for joint discussions on cultural issues. The cultural exhibition revealed that many people at Honda were actively involved in creative or cultural activities despite the company's reputation as an organization that lacked a cultural flavor. The exhibition helped create a place for those sharing similar interests to get together and exchange their ideas.
People and Society Coexisting in Harmony with Nature
"Engineers must produce good-quality, reasonably priced products that people want and find useful. Engineers must work to contribute to society through technology. This is an admonition as well as an encouragement to myself." These are the words of Mr. Honda, as quoted in Honda Monthly News No. 13, published in September 1952, in an article entitled "Self-Admonition: The Industrial Sense of Morals." Honda's idea to "contribute to society through technology (one's profession)" lives on in society through his many works.
In October 1970, Honda launched Honda's Safe Driving Promotional Headquarters, a first for the industry. At the time, traffic safety was becoming a big social issue due to the rapid increase in traffic accidents since the late 1960s, as the country became more mobile in its use of cars and motorcycles.
Honda demonstrated that the auto manufacturer's responsibility in making a product to which people entrust their lives did not stop at guaranteeing the safety of the car. After all, that was merely a piece of hardware. Honda took it a step further by providing "software" regarding driving safety, such as how to drive a car properly and make the driving experience more fun.
In 1971, Honda introduced to the world the Honda Techmatic System, a driving-assistance device for people with disabilities. In 1981, the United Nations' International Year of the Disabled, Noriko Tsuji, a victim of thalidomide poisoning who was born with malformed arms, told Honda of her desire to drive a car. Workers in various divisions of Honda were receptive to her wish, and began tinkering with the possibility. They employed the Franz System, a driving-assistance device used in Germany for people with disabled arms, then added some research and improvements to complete the Honda Franz System. At the same time, a partial revision of the Road Traffic Act Enforcement Ordinance was announced. In April 1992 Noriko was able to realize her dream of driving on public roads with a Civic equipped with the Honda Franz System.
The year 1981 was also the one in which Honda's special-treatment subsidiary, Honda Taiyo, was established in the city of Beppu, Oita Prefecture. At this site, people with disabilities make full use of their remaining abilities to produce parts for the company, thus receiving an opportunity to function as productive members of society.
In 1992, Honda R&D Taiyo was established in the same city. In November 1994, the two companies' new plant and company dormitory were completed in Hiji-machi, Oita. Hailed as a model plant where disabled and able-bodied people could at last work together, the facility is today drawing attention throughout Japan and the world.
In 1985, Honda, Kumamoto Prefecture and Matsubashi-cho town combined to establish Kibo-no-Sato Honda ("Honda's Home of Hope") in Matsubashi-cho, Kumarnoto, as a joint venture between the private and public. sectors.
In 1978, the making of "hometown forest" started, in which the company promoted the planting of greenery around its factories.
Professor Akira Miyawaki of Yokohama National University was at the time promoting a movement to create greenery, following the examples of the groves surrounding village shrines. The idea was to create hometown forests to protect the environment. Honda was the first in the private sector to join this movement, committing to a ten year project.
August 5, 1991, was the day Company Founder Soichiro Honda passed away. He was 84 years of age.
During his lifetime Honda had often told people around him, "I have lived my life as an automobile manufacturer. How can I cause serious traffic on the day of my funeral?" His survivors and the company's executive officers respected Honda's wishes not to follow formalities or cause problems for others. It was decided that the company would hold an Orei-no-kai (a thank-you gathering) in place of a formal company funeral.
The Orei-no-kai was held for three days beginning September 5, a month following Honda's death. The first and second floors of the company's head office building in Aoyama were employed as the gathering place. Concurrent gatherings took place at the company's Kumamoto, Suzuka, Hamamatsu, Saitama and Tochigi sites. In all, more than 62,000 people attended the event. People of all ages paid tribute to Honda, and took time to view the display of products and paintings that he had created.