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Honda Motor Company Limited

Honda Motor Company Limited

1-1, 2-chome
Minami-Aoyama,
Minato-Ku,
Tokyo 107-8556
Japan
81-3-3423-1111
Fax: 81-3-3423-0217
U.S. Headquarters
American Honda Motor Co.
1919 Torrance Boulevard
Torrance, California 90501-2746
U.S.A
(310) 783-2000
Fax: (310) 783-3900
Web site: http://www.honda.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1948
Employees: 109,400
Sales: US$52.4 billion (1999)
Stock Exchanges: Tokyo Osaka Niigata Nagoya Kyoto Fukuoka Supporo Hiroshima New York
Ticker Symbol: HMC
NAIC: 336991 Motorcycle, Bicycle & Parts Manufacturing; 336211 Motor Vehicle Body Manufacturing; 336999 Other Engine Equipment Manufacturing; 335312 Motor & Generator Manufacturing; 333618 Outboard Motors Manufacturing

Honda Motor Company Limited is perhaps best known as an automakerit is the third largest automaker in Japanbut the company has its roots in motorcycles, and is the world* s top motorcycle manufacturer. Its best market is in the United States, where the majority of its sales are generated. Hondas automobile product line accounts for approximately 90 percent of its sales, and includes well-known U.S. top-sellers such as the Accord, Legend, Civic, Prelude, and the luxury Acura. The Accord is the second most purchased car in the United States, although it actually ranks first on the countrys list of most stolen (and thus, in demand) vehicles. Honda also produces motorcycles such as the Super Cub, Foresight, and Shadow 750. Furthermore, the companys power products division makes other items that bolster annual sales, such as agricultural and industrial-use machinery, portable generators, outboard motors, and all-terrain vehicles.

The Early Years

Any description of Honda Motor Companys history and success must take into account the contrasting inclinations of its foundersSoichiro Honda and his partner, Takeo Fujisawa. Soichiro Hondas achievements as a mechanical engineer are said to have matched those of Henry Ford. Working in his Japanese machine shop in 1938, Honda concentrated his early efforts on casting a perfect piston ring. He soon succeeded in casting a ring that met his standards, and attempted to sell it to the Toyota Corporation.

Toyota rejected Hondas first batch of piston rings, but two years later the company finally placed a large order. At that time, however, Honda ironically found himself facing a major obstacle that came as a result of the orders large sizea shortage of cement. Because Japan was preparing for war, Honda could not secure the cement and materials needed to construct a factory to mass-produce piston rings. Furthermore, he could not produce the quantity of piston rings necessary using his facility at that time. Undaunted, Honda learned how to make his own cement and soon constructed the new facility.

Hondas new factories survived the bombing attacks during World War II, but were unfortunately later destroyed by an earthquake. At that time, Honda sold his piston ring operation to Toyota and went on to manufacture motorbikes instead. He had designed his first bike in the early postwar years when gasoline was very scarce and the need for a low fuel-consuming vehicle was great. After the destruction of his piston ring manufacturing facilities, he decided to attempt selling his motorbike on a larger scale.

To form a company, Honda joined efforts with investor Takeo Fujisawa, whom he had known throughout the 1940s. In 1949 Fujisawa provided the capital, as well as financial and marketing strategies, to start the new company. Hondas motivation for establishing the companyunlike Fujisawaswas not purely commercial, but was instead to provide himself with a secure financial base so that he might pursue other ambitions such as motorcycle racing.

Innovations in the 1950s

In 1950, after his first motorcycle had been introduced in Japan, Honda stunned the engineering world by doubling the horsepower of the conventional four-stroke engine. With this technological innovation, the company was poised for success. By 1951 demand was brisk, yet production was slow. It was primarily due to design advantages that Honda became one of four or five industry leaders. By 1954 Honda had achieved a 15 percent share of the motorcycle market.

Still, the two owners of the company had different priorities. For Fujisawa, the engine innovation meant increased sales and easier access to financing. For Honda, the higher horsepower engine opened the possibility of more successfully pursuing his motorcycle racing ambitions. Indeed, winning provided the ultimate confirmation of his design abilities. Success came quickly, and by the end of the 1950s Honda had won all of the most prestigious motorcycle racing prizes in the world.

Throughout the decade, however, Fujisawa attempted to turn Hondas attention away from racing and instead toward the more mundane tasks of running a successful business venture. By 1956, as the technological innovations gained from racing began to pay off in vastly more efficient engines, Fujisawa prompted Honda to adapt this technology for a commercial motorcyclewith a particular segment of Japanese society in mind. At that time, most motorcyclists in Japan were male and the machines they used were primarily an alternative form of transportation to trains and buses. There were, however, a large number of small commercial establishments in Japan that still delivered goods and ran errands on bicycles. The finances of these small enterprises were usually controlled by Japanese housewives who resisted buying conventional motorcycles because they were expensive, dangerous, and difficult to handle. Fujisawa suggested to Honda that with his knowledge of racing, he might be able to design a safe and inexpensive motorcycle that could be driven with only one hand (to facilitate carrying packages).

In 1958 the Honda 50cc Super Cub was introduced. It featured an automatic clutch, three-speed transmission, automatic starter, and the safe, friendly look of a bicycle. Its inexpensive price was due almost entirely to its high-horsepower, yet lightweight 50cc engine. Overwhelmed by demand, the company arranged for an infusion of capital in order to build a new plant with a 30,000 unit per month capacity. By the end of 1959 Honda had climbed into first place among Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, with sales of $55 million. The companys total sales that year of 285,000 units included 168,000 Super Cubs.

Expansion into the United States in the 1960s

The success of the Super Cub in Japan prompted Honda to consider expanding its target market to other geographic regions. The company had already experimented with local southeast Asian markets in 1957 and 1958, however, with little success. The European market, while larger, was heavily dominated by its own name brand manufacturers, and their popular mopeds dominated the low price, low horsepower market. Thus, Fujisawa decided to focus Hondas attention on the U.S. market.

Prior to 1960, the image of the motorcyclist in the United States was that of an unsavory teenager who belonged to a group of unruly characters known by names such as Hells Angels and Satans Slaves. In general, the U.S. public regarded motorcyclists as troublemakers who wore leather jackets. In the 1960s, however, Honda Motor Company worked to successfully transform that image, and at the same time establish the company as the leading motorcycle manufacturer in the world.

In 1959 Honda established a U.S. subsidiaryAmerican Honda Motor Company, Inc.an action which was in sharp contrast to other foreign manufacturers who relied on distributors. Hondas strategy was to create a market of customers who had never given a thought to owning a motorcycle. The company started its enterprise in America by producing the smallest, most lightweight motorcycles available. With a three speed transmission, an automatic clutch, five horsepower (an American cycle had only two and a half), an electric starter, and a step-through frame for female riders, Honda sold its unit for $250 retail compared to $1,000$1,500 for the American machines. Even at that early date, American Honda was probably superior to its competitors in the area of productivity.

Honda followed a policy of developing the U.S. market one region at a time. The company started on the West Coast and moved eastward over a period of five years. During 1960,2,500 machines were sold in the United States. In 1961, 125 distributors were established, and $150,000 was spent on regional advertising. Hondas success in creating a demand for lightweight motorcycles was impressive. Its U.S. sales skyrocketed from $500,000 in 1960 to $77 million in 1965.

Company Perspectives:

Maintaining a global viewpoint, we are dedicated to supplying products of the highest quality yet at a reasonable price for worldwide customer satisfaction.

Hondas advertising campaign, which was directed at young families, included the slogan, You meet the nicest people on a Honda. This was a deliberate attempt to disassociate its motorcycles from the image many Americans had of motorcyclists. The slogans creation was an interesting story itself. In the spring of 1963 an undergraduate advertising major at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) submitted, in fulfillment of a course assignment, an advertising campaign for Honda. Its theme was: You meet the nicest people on a Honda. Encouraged by his instructor, the student submitted his work to a friend at Grey Advertising. Consequently, the Nicest People campaign became the impetus behind Hondas sales, and as a result, by 1964 nearly one out of every two motorcycles sold in the United States was a Honda.

Transitions into Automobile Manufacture

As a result of the growing number of medium-income consumers, banks and other consumer credit companies began to finance the purchase of motorcycles. This facilitated a shift away from dealer credit, which had been the traditional purchasing mechanism. Seizing the opportunity created by a soaring demand for its products, the company set into motion a risky plan. Late in 1964 Honda announced that soon thereafter it would cease to ship motorcycles on a consignment basis and would require cash on delivery. Meanwhile, management prepared itself for a dealership revolt. Instead, while nearly every dealer either questioned or complained about the decision, not one relinquished its franchise. Therefore, through this one decision Honda was able to transfer the financial authority (and, the power that goes with it) from the dealer to the manufacturer. Within three years this method became the basic pattern of the industry and the Honda motorcycle had the largest market share of any company in the world.

Meanwhile, as Honda was becoming the worlds leading motorcycle manufacturer, in 1967 it diversified and also began to produce cars and trucks. In addition, the company started to manufacture portable generators, power tillers, lawn mowers, pumps, and outboard motors. In 1967 and 1968 the company introduced two lightweight passenger cars which performed poorly in both the Japanese and U.S. markets. It was not until 1973 and the introduction of the Honda Civic that the company became a real presence on the international automobile market. The world was in the grip of the oil crisis, and the energy-efficient Japanese compacts suddenly found a worldwide market.

Three years later, in 1976, as sales of the Honda Civic surpassed the one million mark, the company introduced an upscale, higher priced model named the Accord. Sales of the Accord grew rapidly, not only in Japan, but especially in the United States. In 1982, as a result of the burgeoning U.S. market for Japanese cars, production of the Accord was started at Hondas Marysville, Ohio, manufacturing plant. Meanwhile, Hondas total motorcycle production had reached some 3.5 million units per year, with one-third being produced or sold outside of Japan.

As the Accord became more and more popular with middle-class Americans looking for high-quality, reliable, and affordable cars, management was convinced that the company could succeed in entering the luxury car market. In 1986, Honda introduced the Acura, which immediately garnered large sales throughout Japan and the United States. By the end of the 1980s, Honda had developed into one of the leading car manufacturers in the world.

Stumbling Blocks in the Early 1990s

Hondas success continued into the new decade. The Accord was the most popular and bestselling car in the United States from 1990 to 1992. U.S. sales were astronomical, with two cars sold in the United States for every one sold in Japan. When Honda began selling cars in the late 1960s, no one could have predicted that Honda would ever surpass Chrysler Corporation to become the third largest seller of cars in the United States. It happened, however, in 1993. Furthermore, in addition to car sales, the companys motorcycle unit even broke new ground: in 1992 Honda organized the first ever joint venture to make motorcycles in China. Many industry analysts predicted that the agreement would give Honda an initial foothold in what could become the worlds largest and most lucrative motorcycle market.

Yet Hondas success in an arena as competitive as the automotive industry could not continue indefinitely. With increasing sales of Pontiacs Grand Am, Fords Taurus, and Toyotas Camry, sales of Hondas Accord slipped 35 percent in 1993. In the luxury car market, Acuras sales decreased 17 percent as well, battered by competition from Toyotas Lexus and Nissans Infinity. Honda even lost a significant portion of its share of the Japanese market. Exacerbating its loss of market share was the widely publicized scandal that high-ranking Honda managers accepted payoffs as high as $100,000 from dealers who wanted Honda franchises and certain types of special treatment.

With over 40 percent of its worldwide sales located in the United States, Honda started to fight back on American soil. After Soichiro Honda died in 1991, the company initiated a comprehensive reorganization. Led by Nobuhiko Kawamoto, the companys president and chief executive officer, Honda reorganized its Japanese, European, and North American units into autonomous operations to improve cost effectiveness. In order to introduce more Americans into company management, Honda arranged for 50 employees from its Ohio plant to spend two to three years working in Japan. The company also expanded its sales training in the United States, and introduced dealer incentives of up to $1.,000 per car in order to move some of its inventory. Finally, Honda introduced its first four-wheel drive vehicle, to compete with already established models such as Isuzus Rodeo.

Although Honda trimmed its overhead, incorporated more Americans into the management of the company, and introduced new models, none of these changes altered one salient factnamely, that the worldwide car industry was saturated and would remain extremely competitive for both the short and long term. Ironically, Honda would have to endure the same squeeze that U.S. car manufacturers had felt during the 1970s and 1980s, when Japanese competition almost forced them out of business.

The End of the Century and Beyond

In order to compete in the tough automobile industry environment, Honda focused much of its attention on research and development in 1993 and 1994. As a payoff, the company received a substantial amount of positive press related to its efforts. First, in 1993 it was noted that Hondas power product engines were the first to meet new California emission regulations. Later that year, Hondas experiments with alternative power sources for automobiles led the company to win the worlds largest Solar Car racethe World Solar Challengewith its Honda Dream. The following year, the company began selling the CUV-ES electric scooter on a limited basis, and Hondas BP90 outboard motor received the IMTEC Innovation Award.

In 1995 Honda followed these feats with the introduction of the first gasoline-powered vehicle to meet Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) standards. Around the same time, a new version of the Civic was introduced, featuring a three-stage VTEC engine and Multi Matic characteristic. By then, cumulative world production for the Civic had reached ten million units, and cumulative world production of all Honda automobiles had surpassed the 30 million unit mark. Late that year, Honda introduced another vehicle to its product linethe sport utility vehicle CR-V.

Honda also attempted to bolster U.S. sales through efforts to engineer and manufacture some of its U.S. products in that country, using American labor. In 1996, the Acura CLwhich had been developed and produced in the United Stateswent on sale. That same year, the Valkyriea U.S.-made large-size custom motorcyclewas introduced. Honda won the World Solar Challenge once again in 1996.

The next year brought with it Hondas creation and application of a new 360-degree universally inclinable ultra-small four-stroke engine, as well as the manufacture of more automobiles with low emissions characteristics. Also in 1997, the company reached the cumulative production milestone of 100 million units for its motorcycle line, and of 30 million units for its power product line. Hondas sales continued to rebound, and the growth led the company to open production facilities in many new locations around the world. For instance, in 1997 alone, new production lines of different Honda products were started in India, Vietnam, Turkey, Indonesia, and Brazil. In 1998 Honda once again signed a joint venture agreement in Chinathis time to produce and sell cars.

Soon thereafter, Honda made headlines when its U.S. workforce began publicly voicing a potential desire to join unions. Up to that point, Honda had been a unionless enterprise, surrounded in the United States by most other U.S.-based car companies who were supported by unions such as the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the Teamsters Union. In fact, no other Japanese-owned automobile company had ever approved and instituted a union structure before. Among some of the complaints against the company by workers were working conditions, retirement plans, and special treatment of temporary workers. Nevertheless, many Honda employees quoted in U.S. media at the time seemed to voice the opinion that there was no significant need for Honda workers to become unionized.

In 1999 Honda poised itself to introduce to the U.S. market a new low-emission, fuel-efficient automobile made out of an aluminum and plastic mix. The new car, named the Insight, was powered by both gasoline fuel and electricity, and was estimated to achieve an amazing 84 miles per gallon of gasoline. Honda was not the first carmaker to come up with such a vehicle; Toyota had previously introduced a similar car to the market in Japanthe Prius. But Hondas late 1999 introduction of the Insight in the United States was set to beat Toyotas original plans for a year 2000 entry into the U.S. market.

As the end of the century approached, Honda was doing quite well but still had weaknesses to surmount. It had come to be known as one of the most efficient car companies in the world. Its strengths were in its research and development know-how, its high level of technological advances, and its global reachHonda was selling markedly more units abroad than in its own country. Yet the company was beginning to rely more and more on its U.S. sales, which by the end of the decade accounted for nearly 85 percent of Hondas profits. Furthermore, there was too much reliance on the success of the companys Civic and Accord models, which could pose trouble in the future if production glitches occurred in either line. It would be Hondas ability to effectively deal with those potential problem areas that would determine its success in the 21st century.

Principal Subsidiaries

Honda Research and Development Co., Ltd.; Honda Engineering Co., Ltd.; Honda International Sales Corp.; Honda SF Corp.; Honda Minami Tokyo Co., Ltd.; Honda Motor Service Co., Ltd.; ACT Trading Corp.; American Honda Motor Co.; Honda of America Mfg., Inc.; Honda Research of America, Inc.; Honda Motor (China) Co., Ltd.; Press Giken Co., Ltd. (98.2%); Seiki Giken Co., Ltd. (98%); Honda and Co., Ltd. (86.6%); Honda Sogo Tatemono, Ltd. (70%).

Further Reading

Clark, Tanya, How Honda Thrives, Industry Week, October 5, 1998.

Handicapping Honda, Business Week Online, July 5, 1999.

Honda Vs. the Giants, Business Week Online, July 5, 1999.

Hondas Yoshino: Traditionally, We Build Small and Grow Big, Business Week Online, July 5, 1999.

Kerwin, Kathleen, We Just Kind of Sneak Up on You, Business Week Online, July 5, 1999.

Miller, Karen Lowry, How Not to Buy a Car Company, Business Week Online, July 5, 1999.

Newest Honda Claims 84 Miles Per Gallon, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 7, 1999.

Ramsey, Douglas K., The Corporate Warriors: Six Classic Cases in American Business, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

Sakiya, Tetuus, Honda Motor: The Men, The Management, The Machine, Tokyo: Kodonsha International, 1982.

Taylor, Alex, The Dangers of Running Too Lean, Fortune, June 14, 1993.

Thornton, Emily, Kathleen Kerwin, and Keith Naughton, Honda: Can the Company Go It Alone? Business Week Online, July 5, 1999.

Unions Square Off over Honda Plant, Detroit Free Press, May 13, 1999.

Thomas Derdak

updated by Laura E. Whiteley

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Honda Motor Company Limited (Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha)

Honda Motor Company Limited (Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha)

1-1, Minami-Ayama, 2-chome
Minato-Ku, Tokyo 107
Japan
81-3-3423-1111
Fax: 81-3-3423-0511
U.S. Headquarters: Honda North America, Inc.
1290 Avenue of the Americas
Suite 3330
New York, New York 10104
U.S.A
(212) 765-3804
Fax: (212) 541-9855

Public Company
Incorporated: September 24, 1948
Employees: 28,000
Sales: US$33 billion
Stock Exchanges: Tokyo Osaka Niigata Nagoya Kyoto Fukuoka Supporo Hiroshima New York
SICs: 3751 Motorcycles, Bicycles & Parts; 3711 Motor Vehicles & Car Bodies

Prior to 1960 the image of the motorcyclist in America was that of an unsavory teenager who belonged to a group of unruly characters known by such names as Hells Angels and Satans Slaves. In general, motorcyclists were regarded by the American public as troublemakers who wore leather jackets. By the mid-1960s, however, Honda Motor Company Limited and its American subsidiary had successfully transformed that image, and at the same time established the company as the leading motorcycle manufacturer in the world. During the 1970s and 1980s, Honda also established itself as one of the worlds preeminent car manufacturers. With its best-selling Honda Accord, the popular Civic, and the upscale Acura, the company became a sales leader in the American automotive industry.

In 1959 Honda established an American subsidiary, named the American Honda Motor Co., which was in sharp contrast to other foreign manufacturers who relied on distributors. Hondas strategy was to create a market of customers who had never given a thought to owning a motorcycle. The company started its enterprise in America by producing the smallest, lightweight motorcycles available. With a three speed transmission, an automatic clutch, five horsepower (an American cycle had only two and a half), an electric starter and step-through frame for female riders, Honda sold its unit for $250 retail compared to $ 1,000-$ 1,500 for the American machines. Even at that early date Honda was probably superior to other companies in its productivity. By 1959, with sales of $55 million, Honda was already the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.

Honda followed a policy of developing the American market region by region. The company started on the West Coast and moved eastward over a period of five years. During 1960 2,500 machines were sold in the United States. In 1961 it established 125 distributors and spent $150,000 on regional advertising. Hondas advertising campaign, which was directed to young families, included the slogan, You meet the nicest people on a Honda. This was a deliberate attempt to disassociate their motorcycles from the image many Americans had of mo-torcylists. Hondas success in creating a demand for lightweight motorcycles was impressive. Its U.S. sales skyrocketed from $500,000 in 1960 to $77 million in 1965. By 1966 the market share revealed the ascendancy of the Japanese manufacturer and its success in selling lightweight motorcycles.

Any description of the companys success must take into account the unusual character of its founders Soichiro Honda, and his partner, Takeo Fujisawa. Soichiro Hondas achievements as a mechanical engineer are said to match those of Henry Fords. Working in his machine shop in 1938, Honda concentrated his efforts on casting a perfect piston ring, and finally succeeded in casting a ring that met his standards. Two years after rejecting Hondas first batch of piston rings, the Toyota Corporation placed a large order, but because the country was preparing for war, Honda was unable to obtain cement to construct a factory to mass produce piston rings. Undaunted, he built the plant by learning how to make his own cement.

Hondas factories survived the bombing attacks during World War II but were then destroyed by an earthquake. Undaunted, Honda sold his piston ring operation to Toyota and went on to manufacture motorbikes. He had designed his first bike in the early postwar years when gasoline was very scarce and the need for a low fuel consuming vehicle was great.

To form a company, Honda joined efforts with Takeo Fujisawa. Honda and Fujisawa had known one another throughout the 1940s and in 1949 Fujisawa provided the capital, as well as the financial and marketing strategy. Hondas motivation for establishing this company was not purely commercial but to provide a secure financial base so that he might pursue other ambitions. In 1950, after his first motorcycle had been introduced in Japan, Honda stunned the engineering world by doubling the horsepower of the conventional four-stroke engine. With this technological innovation, the company was poised for success. By 1951 demand was brisk, yet production was slow. It was primarily due to design advantages that Honda became one of the four or five industry leaders by 1954 with 15 percent of the market share.

The two owners of the company had different priorities. For Fujisawa, the engine innovation meant increased sales and easier access to financing. For Honda, the higher horsepower engine opened the possibility of pursuing one of his central ambitions in lifemotorcycle racing. Indeed, winning provided the ultimate confirmation of his design abilities. Success came quickly, and by 1959 Honda had won all of the most prestigious motorcycle racing prizes in the world.

Fujisawa, throughout the 1950s, attempted to turn Hondas attention away from racing to the more mundane tasks of running a successful business venture. By 1956, as the technological innovations gained from racing began to pay off in vastly more efficient engines, Fujisawa prompted Honda to adapt this technology for a commercial motorcycle. Fujisawa had a particular segment of Japanese society in mind. Most motorcyclists in Japan were male and the machines they used were primarily an alternative form of transportation to trains and buses. There were, however, a large number of small commercial establishments in Japan that still delivered goods and ran errands on bicycles. The finances of these small enterprises were usually controlled by Japanese housewives who resisted buying conventional motorcycles because they were expensive, dangerous, and difficult to handle. Fujisawa suggested to Honda that, with his knowledge of racing, he might be able to design a safe and inexpensive motorcycle that could be driven with one hand (to facilitate carrying packages).

In 1958 the Honda 50cc Supercub was introduced. It featured an automatic clutch, three-speed transmission, automatic starter, and the safe, friendly look of a bicycle. Its inexpensive price was due almost entirely to its high horsepower but lightweight 50cc engine. Overwhelmed by demand, the company arranged for an infusion of capital in order to build a new plant with a 30,000 unit per month capacity. By the end of 1959 Honda had climbed into first place among Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. The companys total sales that year of 285,000 units included 168,000 Supercubs.

Honda had experimented with local southeast Asian markets in 1957 and 1958 with little success. The European market, while larger, was heavily dominated by its own name brand manufacturers, and their popular mopeds dominated the low price, low horsepower products. Fujisawa decided to focus attention on the United States market.

In the spring of 1963 an undergraduate advertising major at University of California, Los Angeles submitted, in fulfillment of a course assignment, an advertising campaign for Honda. Its theme was: You meet the nicest people on a Honda. Encouraged by his instructor, the student submitted his work to a friend at Grey Advertising. Consequently, the Nicest People campaign became the impetus behind Hondas sales. By 1964 nearly one out of every two motorcycles sold in the United States was a Honda.

As a result of the growing number of medium-income consumers, banks and other consumer credit companies began to finance the purchase of motorcycles. This involved a shift away from dealer credit, which had been the traditional purchasing mechanism. Seizing the opportunity created by a soaring demand for its products, the company set in motion a risky plan. Late in 1964 Honda announced that soon thereafter it would cease to ship motorcycles on a consignment basis and would require cash on delivery. Management prepared itself for a dealership revolt. Yet, while nearly every dealer either questioned or complained about the decision, not one relinquished his franchise. By this one decision, Honda transferred the financial authority (and, the power that goes with it) from the dealer to the manufacturer. Within three years this method became the basic pattern of the industry and the Honda motorcycle had the largest market share of any company in the world. By 1981 Hondas total motorcycle production reached some 3.5 million units and one-third of those were produced or sold outside of Japan.

As early as 1967, when Honda was on its way to becoming the worlds leading motorcycle manufacturer, it also began to produce cars and trucks. In addition, the company started to manufacture portable generators, power tillers, lawn mowers, pumps, and outboard motors. In 1967 and 1968 the company introduced two lightweight passenger cars which performed poorly in both the Japanese and American markets. It was not until 1973 and the introduction of the Honda Civic that the company became a real presence on the international automobile market. The world was in the grip of the oil crisis, and the energy-efficient Japanese compacts suddenly found a worldwide market.

In 1976, as sales of the Honda Civic surpassed the one million mark, the company introduced an upscale, higher priced model named the Accord. Sales of the Accord grew rapidly, not only in Japan, but especially in the United States. In 1982, as a result of the burgeoning American market for Japanese cars, production of the Accord was started at Hondas Marysville, Ohio, manufacturing plant. As the Accord became more and more popular with middle-class Americans looking for high-quality, reliable, and affordable cars, management was convinced that the company could succeed in entering the luxury car market. In 1986, Honda introduced the Acura, which immediately garnered large sales throughout Japan and the United States. By the end of the 1980s, Honda had developed into one of the leading car manufacturers in the world.

Hondas success continued into the early 1990s. The Accord was the most popular and best-selling car in America from 1990 to 1992. Sales were astronomical, with two cars sold in the United States for every one sold in Japan. No one could have predicted that by 1993 Honda would have passed Chrysler Corp. to become the third largest seller of cars in the United States. In addition to car sales, the companys motorcycle unit even broke new ground: in 1992 Honda organized the first joint venture to make motorcycles in China. Many industry analysts say this agreement will give Honda an initial foothold in what could become the worlds largest and most lucrative motorcycle market.

Yet Hondas success in such a competitive market as the automotive industry could not continue indefinitely. With increasing sales of Pontiacs Grand Am, Fords Taurus, and Toyotas Camry, sales of Hondas Accord slipped 35 percent in 1993. In the luxury car market, sales of Hondas Acura decreased 17 percent, battered by competition from Toyotas Lexus and Nissans Infinity. Honda even lost a significant portion of its share of the Japanese market. Exacerbating its loss of market share was the widely publicized scandal that high-ranking Honda managers accepted payoffs as high as $100,000 from dealers who wanted Honda franchises and certain types of special treatment.

With over 40 percent of its worldwide sales in the United States, Honda started to fight back on American soil. After Soichiro Honda died in 1991, the company initiated a comprehensive reorganization. Led by Nobuhiko Kawamoto, the companys president and chief executive officer, Honda reorganized its Japanese, European, and North American units into autonomous operations to improve cost effectiveness. In order to introduce more Americans into company management, Honda arranged for 50 employees from its Ohio plant to spend two to three years working in Japan. The company has also expanded its sales training in the United States, and introduced dealer incentives of up to $1000 per car in order to move some of its inventory. Finally, Honda introduced its first four-wheel drive vehicle to compete with already established models such as Isuzus Rodeo.

Honda products are manufactured by 43 plants in 40 countries. BL Ltd. (formerly British Ley land), Britains largest car manufacturer, which is owned by the government, decided to manufacture one passenger car model under license from Honda. In this particular case, Honda sold a technical license to BL Limited. The company also has joint agreements with South Africa, Yugoslavia, France, and China.

Although Honda has trimmed its overhead, incorporated more Americans into management of the company, and introduced new models, none of these changes will alter one salient fact namely, that the worldwide car industry is saturated and will remain extremely competitive for both the short and long term. Ironically, Honda might have to get used to the squeeze American car manufacturers felt during the 1970s and 1980s, when Japanese competition almost forced them out of business.

Principal Subsidiaries:

Honda Research and Development Co. Ltd.; Honda Engineering Co. Ltd.; Honda International Sales Corp.; Honda SF Corp.; Honda Minami Tokyo Co. Ltd.; Honda Motor Service Co. Ltd.; ACT Trading Corp.; Press Giken Co. Ltd. (98.2 percent); Seiki Giken Co. Ltd. (98 percent); Honda and Co. Ltd. (86.6 percent); Honda Research of America, Inc.; Honda Sogo Tatemono Ltd. (70 percent); American Honda Motor Co.; Honda of America Mfg., Inc. The company also has subsidiaries in the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, The Netherlands, Thailand, United Kingdom, and West Germany.

Further Reading:

Ramsey, Douglas K., The Corporate Warriors: Six Classic Cases in American Business, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

Sakiya, Tetuus, Honda Motor: The Men, The Management, The Machine, Tokyo: Kadonsha International, 1982.

Taylor, Alex, The Dangers of Running Too Lean, Fortune, June 14, 1993.

updated by Thomas Derdak

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"Honda Motor Company Limited (Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha)." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Honda Motor Company Limited (Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha)." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/honda-motor-company-limited-honda-giken-kogyo-kabushiki-kaisha

"Honda Motor Company Limited (Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha)." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/honda-motor-company-limited-honda-giken-kogyo-kabushiki-kaisha

Honda Motor Company Limited(Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha)

Honda Motor Company Limited(Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha)

1-1, Minami-Ayama, 2-chome
Minato-Ku, Tokyo 107
Japan
(03) 423-1111

Public Company
Incorporated: September 24, 1948
Employees: 53,730
Sales: ¥2341 billion (US$14.7 billion)
Market Value: ¥1269 billion (US$7.973 billion)
Stock Index: Tokyo Osaka Niigata Nagoya Kyoto
Fukuoka Supporo Hiroshima New York

Prior to 1960 the image of the motocyclist in America was that of an unsavory teenager who belonged to a group of unruly characters known by such names as Hells Angels and Satans Slaves. In general, motorcyclists were regarded by the American public as troublemakers who wore leather jackets. By the mid-1960s, however, Honda and its American subsidiary had successfully transformed that image, and at the same time established the company as the leading motorcycle manufacturer in the world. The story of how this happened has firm roots in the companys early history.

In 1959 Honda established an American subsidiary, named the American Honda Motor Company, which was in sharp contrast to other foreign manufacturers who relied on distributors. Hondas strategy was to create a market of customers who had never given a thought to owning a motorcycle. The company started its enterprise in America by producing the smallest, lightweight motorcycles available. With a three speed transmission, an automatic clutch, five horsepower (an American cycle had only two and a half), an electric starter and step-through frame for female riders, Honda sold its unit for $250 retail compared to $1,000-$ 1,500 for the American machines. Even at that early date Honda was probably superior to other companies in its productivity. By 1959, with sales of $55 million, Honda was already the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.

Honda followed a policy of developing the American market region by region. The company started on the west coast and moved eastward over a period of five years.

During 1960 2,500 machines were sold in the U.S. In 1961 it established 125 distributors and spent $150,000 on regional advertising. Hondas advertising campaign, which was directed to young families, included the slogan, You meet the nicest people on a Honda. This was a deliberate attempt to disassociate their motorcycles from the undesirable elements in American society. Hondas success in creating a demand for lightweight motorcycles was impressive. Its U.S. sales skyrocketed from $500,000 in 1960 to $77 million in 1965. By 1966 the market share revealed the ascendancy of the Japanese manufacturer and its success in selling lightweight motorcycles.

Any description of the companys success must take into account the unusual character of its founders Soichiro Honda, and his partner, Takeo Fujisawa. Soichiro Hondas achievements as a mechanical engineer are said to match those of Henry Fords. Working in his machine shop in 1938, Honda concentrated his efforts on casting a perfect piston ring, and finally succeeded in casting a ring that met his standards. Two years after rejecting Hondas first batch of piston rings, the Toyota Corporation placed a large order, but because the country was preparing for war, Honda was unable to obtain cement to construct a factory. Undaunted, he built the plant by learning how to make his own cement.

Hondas factories survived bombing attacks during World War II but were then destroyed by an earthquake. Undaunted, Honda sold his piston ring operation to Toyota and went on to manufacture motorbikes. He had designed his first bike in the early post war years when gasoline was very scarce.

To form a company, Honda joined efforts with Takeo Fujisawa. Honda and Fujisawa had known one another throughout the 1940s. In 1949 Fujisawa provided the capital, as well as the financial and marketing strategy, to begin a new company with his friend. Hondas motivation for establishing the company was not purely commercial but to provide a secure financial base so that he might pursue other ambitions. In 1950, after his first motocycle had been introduced in Japan, Honda stunned the engineering world by doubling the horsepower of the conventional four-stroke engine. With this technological innovation, the company was poised for success. By 1951 demand was brisk, yet production was slow. It was primarily due to design advantages that Honda became one of the four or five industry leaders by 1954 with 15% of the market share.

The two owners of the company had different priorities. For Fujisawa the engine innovation meant increased sales and easier access to financing. For Honda the higher horsepower engine opened the possibility of pursuing one of his central ambitions in lifemotorcycle racing. Indeed, winning provided the ultimate confirmation of his design abilities. Success came quickly, and by 1959 Honda had won all of the most prestigious racing prizes in the world.

Fujisawa, throughout the 1950s, attempted to turn Hondas attention away from racing to the more mundane tasks of running a successful business venture. By 1956, as the technological innovations gained from racing began to pay off in vastly more efficient engines, Fujisawa prompted Honda to adapt this technology for a commercial motorcycle. Fujisawa had a particular segment of Japanese society in mind. Most motorcyclists in Japan were male and the machines they used were primarily an alternative form of transportation to trains and buses. There were, however, a large number of small commercial establishments in Japan that still delivered goods and ran errands on bicycles. The finances of these small enterprises were usually controlled by Japanese housewives who resisted buying conventional motorcycles because they were expensive, dangerous, and difficult to handle. Fujisawa suggested to Honda that, with his knowledge of racing, he might be able to design a safe and inexpensive motorcycle that could be driven with one hand (to facilitate carrying packages).

In 1958 the Honda 50cc Supercub was introduced. It featured an automatic clutch, three-speed transmission, automatic starter, and the safe, friendly look of a bicycle. Its inexpensive price was due almost entirely to its high horsepower but lightweight 50cc engine. Overwhelmed by demand, the company arranged for an infusion of capital in order to build a new plant with a 30,000 unit per month capacity. By the end of 1959 Honda had climbed into first place among Japanese motorcycle manufacturers. The companys total sales that year of 285,000 units included 168,000 Supercubs.

Honda had experimented with local Southeast Asian markets in 1957-58 with little success. The European market, while larger, was heavily dominated by its own name brand manufacturers, and the popular mopeds dominated the low price, low horsepower products. Fujisawa decided to focus attention on the United States.

In the spring of 1963 an undergraduate advertising major at UCLA submitted, in fulfillment of a course assignment, an advertising campaign for Honda. Its theme was: You meet the nicest people on a Honda. Encouraged by his instructor, the student submitted his work to a friend at Grey Advertising. Consequently, the Nicest People campaign became the impetus behind Hondas sales. By 1964 nearly one out of every two motorcycles sold in the U.S. was a Honda.

As a result of the growing number of medium income consumers, banks and other consumer credit companies began to finance the purchase of motorcycles. This involved a shift away from dealer credit, which had been the traditional purchasing mechanism. Seizing the opportunity created by a soaring demand for its products, the company set in motion a risky plan. Late in 1964 Honda announced that soon thereafter it would cease to ship motorcycles on a consignment basis and would require cash on delivery. Management prepared itself for a dealership revolt. Yet, while nearly every dealer either questioned or complained about the decision, not one relinquished his franchise. By this one decision, Honda transferred the financial authority (and, the power that goes with it) from the dealer to the manufacturer. Within three years this became the basic pattern of the industry and the Honda motorcycle had the largest market share of any company in the world. By 1981 Honda Motors total motorcycle production reached some 3.5 million units and one-third of those were produced or sold outside of Japan.

As early as 1967, when Honda was on its way to becoming the worlds leading motorcycle manufacturer, it also began to produce cars and trucks. In addition, the company started to manufacture portable generators, power tillers, lawn mowers, pumps, and outboard motors. In 1967 and 1968 the company introduced two lightweight passenger cars which performed poorly in both the Japanese and American markets. It was not until 1973 and the introduction of the Honda Civic that the company became a real presence on the international automobile market. The world was in the grip of the oil crisis, and the energy-efficient Japanese compacts suddenly found a worldwide market.

In the last 15 years, Honda has maintained a significant presence in the automobile industry; but not surprisingly its ascendancy over the two-wheeled vehicle market has not been repeated in the passenger car market.

Honda Motor Company has already become a world enterprise since its products are being manufactured by 43 plants in 28 countries. BL Limited (formerly British Leyland), Britains largest car manufacturer, which is owned by the government, decided to manufacture one passenger car model under license from Honda. In this particular case, Honda sold a technical license to BL Limited, marking the first time Japanese cars were to be built in an industrialized nation of the West under license. The company also has joint agreements with South Africa, Yugoslavia, France and China.

The current director of Honda is Kiyoshi Kawashima, a man who believes strongly in what is called the system of collective leadership. It has been said that he has done more than any other modern corporate leader to improve working conditions for his employees. At the same time, he has more than doubled the gross production output of Honda during his tenure. His innovations to improve working conditions include shorter hours and the fostering of communion among members of the corporation through the common understanding of their similar interests. Such improvements promise to have a large influence upon the American car industry. So much so that Forbes magazine ran a 1986 cover story comparing factories run by Honda and an American corporation. Forbes concluded that the different approaches constituted two separate worlds, and implied that Kawashimas management system was superior to that employed in American-owned automobile factories. As word continues to spread, the unusual style of this Honda president is likely to have a noticeable influence on the future of industrial capitalism.

Market saturation has forced the automotive industry to undergo radical changes. To a large extent, the focus is now on compact cars where a growing demand can be expected, despite the finite size of the international market. Under these circumstances, special attention is being paid to what has been called the global or the world car. The major automotive companies strategy is concerned with how to achieve an efficient and high quality production standard of vehicles through the international division of labor. The success or failure of the world car will, to a large extent, determine the future of these corporations. For this reason, most of the major international auto companies are now investing capital in foreign automakers or cooperating with them in the fields of research and development, production, and sales.

In Japan the domestic automobile market reached a point of saturation in the late 1970s, and Japanese automakers have since been growing primarily by increasing their exports. In Hondas case, growth has occurred through the introduction of entirely new fuel efficient models such as the popular Accord and CRX. However, as the increasing export of Japanese automobiles has created economic and political problems in the West, Japanese auto manufacturers have begun to reduce their exports to the United States, Canada, and the European Economic Community. Japan now believes that its automotive industry can prosper in the future only through the promotion of multinationalization and by cooperating in the global reorganization of the industry. In order to survive the difficulties of the present international market, an auto manufacturer must have researched and developed some technological advantages in production processes, especially in the field of compact cars; without such an edge, even the ability to raise capital will be limited.

Principal Subsidiaries

Honda Research and Development Co., Ltd.; Honda Engineering Co. Ltd.; Honda International Sales Corp.; Honda SF Corp.; Honda Minami Tokyo Co. Ltd.; Honda Motor Service Co. Ltd.; ACT Trading Corp.; Press Giken Co. Ltd. (98.2%); Seiki Giken Co. Ltd. (98%); Honda and Co. Ltd. (86.6%); Honda Research of America Inc.; Honda Sogo Tatemono Ltd. (70%); American Honda Motor Co. Ltd.; Honda of America Mfg. Inc. The company also has subsidiaries in the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, The Netherlands, Thailand, United Kingdom, and West Germany.

Further Reading

Honda Motor: The Men, The Management, The Machine by Tetuus Sakiya, Tokyo, Kadonsha International, 1982; The Corporate Warriors: Six Classic Cases in American Business by Douglas K. Ramsey, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

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"Honda Motor Company Limited(Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha)." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Honda Motor Company Limited(Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha)." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/honda-motor-company-limitedhonda-giken-kogyo-kabushiki-kaisha

"Honda Motor Company Limited(Honda Giken Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha)." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/honda-motor-company-limitedhonda-giken-kogyo-kabushiki-kaisha