Throughout his life, Honda’s founder, Soichiro Honda had a keen interest in internal combustion engines. At a young age, he got involved in the manufacturing of parts for automobile engines and worked in a number of capacities in the industry until the beginning of WWII. During the war, his focus shifted to war time activities and he worked for a firm that made propellers for military aircraft.
After the war, Honda went back to the production of motorized consumer products and with a small staff, he built and sold motorized bicycles. These motorized bicycles were hand-built using a supply of 500 two-stroke 50cc Tohatsu war surplus radio generator engines cars.
Honda’s motorized bicycles sold quickly. His company grew quickly and soon was selling more motorized bicycles than anyone else in Japan. During the 1950s and 1960s, Honda flourished and his attention to quality was second to none. In fact, by the 1970s, Honda had become the world’s largest maker of motorcycles and made some of the most reliable every built. The name Honda had become synonymous with high quality and excellent products.
Honda’s production of automobiles started during the 1960s but had a different trajectory. The first Honda cars were well built but they were physically small compared to American cars. This was a problem. In the 1960s, Americans were having a love affair with big, yacht-sized automobiles. Bosak Honda of Highland, IN, a full-service Honda dealership reminds us that during the 1960s gas was cheap (25 cents per gallon) and America was entering the golden years of grand-sized automobile design.
The Civic and Accord
Soichiro Honda soon realized that in order to compete in the United States, he had to make larger cars. Honda immediately went to work on their first mid-size car, the Honda Civic. Although still small compared to the US-made cars, the Civic sold like hot cakes. Buyers loved its high quality and outstanding reliability. Leveraging the popularity of the Civic, Honda released the Accord in the late 1970s and it quickly a popular model too. America was beginning to fall in love with Japanese-built automobiles and Honda couldn’t make enough of them.
By 1982, Honda chalked up another first when they became the first Japanese company to open a plant on American soil. Their first assembly line was built in Maysville, Ohio and two other plants were later built in Lincoln, Alabama and another in Timmonsville, South Carolina. These American-based plants helped alleviate the supply problem and soon all the plants were operating around the clock.
Cracking the luxury market
Although Honda was a household name by the 1980s, they found it hard to compete in the luxury car marketplace. This sector had been owned by Cadillac, Lincoln, Buick and others for decades. Honda realized that this would take a special car to crack this marketplace so they did something unusual. They introduced their own brand of luxury vehicles under a separate dealership franchise program. This new division was known as Acura and it was immediately successful. Acura was soon followed by other Japanese automotive companies, Nissan and Toyota, who launched their own separate luxury lines, Infiniti and Lexus.
Today the era of big car ownership is long gone. In its place buyers are looking for fuel economy and safety. Today’s car buying public enjoys these attributes and the outstanding reliability of every vehicle Honda makes. .