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Honda Motor Company, Ltd. (Japanese: 本田技研工業株式会社 Honda Giken Kōgyō Kabushiki-gaisha, Honda Technology Research Institute, Co. Ltd.) (TYO: 7267. NYSE: HMC), or simply called Honda . is a Japanese engine manufacturer and engineering corporation.
The company is perhaps most notable for its automobiles and motorcycles, but it also produces a long list of other products: trucks. scooters, robots, jets and jet engines, ATV, water craft, electrical generators, marine engines, lawn and garden equipment, and aeronautical and other mobile technologies. Honda’s high-end line of cars are branded Acura in North America and China. More recently they have ventured into the world of mountain bikes, producing the very first bike to use an internal gear changing system in the Honda RN-01 G-cross.
With more than 14 million internal combustion engines built each year, Honda is the largest engine-maker in the world. In 2004, the company began to produce diesel motors, which were very quiet whilst not requiring particulate filters to pass pollution standards. It is arguable, however, that the foundation of Honda’s success is the motorcycle division.
Honda is headquartered in Tokyo. Their shares trade on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange, as well as exchanges in Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Kyoto, Fukuoka, London, Paris and Switzerland. American Honda Motor Co. is based in Torrance, California.
Honda Canada Inc. is headquartered in the Scarborough, Ontario district of Toronto, Ontario, and is building new corporate headquarters in Richmond Hill, Ontario, scheduled to relocate in 2008. Honda of Canada Manufacturing is based in Alliston, Ontario. Honda has also created many joint ventures around the world, such as Honda Siel Cars India Ltd. Hero Honda Motorcyles India Ltd, Dongfeng Honda Automobile Company in China and Honda Atlas Cars Pakistan .
Honda cars are popular among the tuner community.
Soichiro Honda was a mechanic who, after working at Art Shokai. developed his own design for piston rings in 1938. He attempted to sell them to Toyota who rejected his first design. After two years of study and further refinement, Honda earned a contract from Toyota.
He constructed a new facility to supply Toyota, but soon after, during World War II, the Honda piston manufacturing facilities were almost completely destroyed.
Soichiro Honda created a new company with what he had left in the Japanese market that was decimated by World War II; his country was starved of money and fuel, but still in need of basic transportation. Honda, utilizing his manufacturing facilities, attached an engine to a bicycle which created a cheap and efficient transport.
He gave his company the name Honda Giken Kōgyō Kabushiki Kaisha which translates to Honda Research Institute Company Ltd . Despite its grandiose name, the first facility bearing that name was a simple wooden shack where Mr. Honda and his associates would fit the engines to bicycles. The official Japanese name for Honda Motor Company Ltd. remains the same in honor of Soichiro Honda’s efforts.
On 24 September, 1948 the Honda Motor Co. was officially founded in Japan.
Honda began to produce a range of scooters and motorcycles and Soichiro Honda quickly recovered from the losses incurred during the war. Honda’s first motorcycle to be put on sale was the 1947 A-Type (one year before the company was officially founded) . However, Honda’s first full-fledged motorcycle on the market was the 1949 Dream D-Type. It was equipped with a 98 cc engine producing around 3 horsepower.
This was followed by a number of successful launches of highly popular scooters throughout the 1950s.
In 1958, the American Honda Company was founded and only one year later, Honda introduced its first model in the United States, the 1959 Honda C100 Super Cub. The Honda Cub holds the title of being the best-selling vehicle in history, with around 50 million units sold around the world.  By the 1970s, Honda was the largest producer of motorcycles in the world, a title it has never relinquished.
In the United States during the 1960s, large motorcycles had the image of being ridden by tough, hardened characters. It was an image fostered by owners of Harley Davidson motorcycles, but Honda countered this public perception with their successful You meet the nicest people on a Honda advertising program. Honda introduced their new SOHC inline 4-cylinder 750 in 1969, which was immediately successful and established this configuration as one of the most popular for performance motorcycles, even to this day.
Honda began developing prototypes for road cars in the early 1960s, mostly intended for the Japanese market. The first production vehicle by Honda was the 1963 T360. a tiny pickup truck featuring 4 different body styles (including a traditional truck bed and a panel van) and a 360 cc, 30 hp engine. This was followed two months later by Honda’s first production automobile, the S500. The S500 was a 2 door roadster featuring a 492 cc engine capable of 44 hp with a high 9,500 rpm redline.
It was fitted to a 4-speed transmission with the rear wheels being chain driven. Mr. Honda took his extensive knowledge of motorcycles and applied it to making his car, of which the chain drive and high redline are evident.
At the time, nearly all of the Japanese automakers were associated with the former zaibatsu, or keiretsu – Japanese business conglomerates. These large companies had close ties with the government who urged them to absorb smaller carmakers into large brands that could be marketed internationally. Since the government had extensive control over the industry, it was unheard of for a small, independent company to mass produce vehicles, thus making Honda’s success historical in the Japanese economy.
Though participating in international motorsport (see Racing ), Honda was having difficulty selling its automobiles in the United States. Built for Japanese buyers, Honda’s small cars had failed to gain the interest of American buyers. Honda’s first automobile imported to the United States was the N600. sold in Hawaii in 1969.
In 1970, the car was imported to California and beyond, but its tiny 600 cc engine and minuscule dimensions made it very unpopular with the American public.
Honda finally established a foothold in the American market in 1972 with the introduction of the Civic larger than their previous models, but still small compared to the typical American carjust as the 1973 energy crisis was impacting worldwide economies. New emissions laws in the US, requiring American car makers to add expensive smog pumps and catalytic converters to engines, increased car prices.
However, Honda’s introduction of the 1975 Civic CVCC. (Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion) being a variation on the stratified charge engine. This allowed the Civic to pass emissions tests without a catalytic converter, and also provided it with the lowest fuel consumption per given displacement due to its more complete combustion. American companies were slow to begin producing small, fuel efficient cars, which gave the Honda Civic a chance to sell well, as well as prove Honda’s reputation for reliability and further expand its customer loyalty.
In 1976, the new, larger-than-the-Civic Accord was immediately popular because of its value, economy, and fun-to-drive nature. Honda had found its niche in the United States. In 1982, Honda was the first Japanese car manufacturer to build car plants in the US, starting with an Accord plant in Marysville, Ohio.
They now have four plants located in Ohio: two in Marysville (the Marysville Auto Plant and the Marysville Motorcycle Plant) . Anna, Ohio, and East Liberty, Ohio. They also have plants in Lincoln, Alabama (Honda Manufacturing of Alabama) and Timmonsville, South Carolina and have recently (2006) opened a new plant in Tallapoosa, Georgia. Honda also has an extensive after market parts operation located in Marysville, Ohio, and a Research and Development facility in Raymond, Ohio.
Honda’s North American and U.S. headquarters are located in Torrance, California. Honda’s Canadian and many US-market Civics are manufactured in their plant in Alliston, Ontario since 986. On 27 June, 2006, Honda announced that another vehicle assembly facility will be opening in North America, this time in Greensburg, Indiana.
Its completion is expected in 2008.
Honda was the first Japanese automaker to introduce a separate luxury line of vehicles. Created in 1986 and known as Acura. the line is made up of modified versions of Honda vehicles usually with more power and sportiness than their Honda counterparts. The very first model was the Acura Legend. with a 2.5 Liter engine producing 151 horsepower. European luxury-car manufacturers initially scoffed at the thought of a luxury company from Japan, with criticism coming mostly from Mercedes-Benz .
1987 was an important year for new safety and technology at Honda. The ’87 Honda Prelude was the first passenger vehicle in the world equipped with four-wheel steering (4WS) technology. This also marked the year for the first Japanese car equipped with an SRS airbag. the Honda (Acura) Legend.
In 1989 Honda launched their VTEC variable valve timing system in its production car engines, which gave improved efficiency and performance across a broader range of engine speeds. One of the first of its kind in passenger vehicles, it worked on the premise of tuning one engine to operate at two different ‘settings’ depending on load. Normal driving would use a shorter cam lobe that resulted in more efficient operation.
A more aggressive, longer duration, cam engages when engine RPM reaches a set point resulting in more power during hard acceleration.
In 1999 Honda began selling the Insight which is a small two-seat hybrid vehicle. Power is derived from a combination of a 1.0L 3-cylinder gasoline engine, and a large NiMH battery pack providing power-assist during acceleration. This computer-controlled combination provided acceptable performance with exceptionally low fuel consumption and emissions.
Honda’s hybrid power train in now an available option for the Civic and Accord.
For the 2007 model year, Honda plans to improve the safety of its vehicles by providing front-seat mounted side airbags, side-curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes as standard equipment in all automobiles available in North America (except the Insight and S2000. which will not have side-curtain airbags). By 2008, Honda plans to have standard Traction with Vehicle Stability Control with rollover sensors in all light trucks, which include the CR-V. Odyssey.
Pilot. and Acura MDX. Honda also plans to make its vehicles safer for pedestrians, with more safely-designed hoods, hinges, frame constructs, and breakaway wiper pivots.
Honda in India
In the Indian auto market Honda Motors are selling Honda Jazz, Honda City, Honda Civic and Honda CRV. Also, Honda has announced that they are going to launch Honda Brio in the Indian auto market. Hyundai Eon will be equipped with the 1.2Litre, 1198cc VVT engine and will be priced at Rs 4 lakh.
Honda entered Formula One as a constructor for the first time in the 1964 season at the German Grand Prix with Ronnie Bucknum at the wheel. 1965 saw the addition of Richie Ginther to the team, who scored Honda’s first point at the Belgian Grand Prix. and Honda’s first win at the Mexican Grand Prix. 1967 saw their next win at the Italian Grand Prix with John Surtees as their driver. In 1968.
Jo Schlesser was killed in a Honda RA302 at the French Grand Prix. This racing tragedy, coupled with their commercial difficulties selling automobiles in the United States, prompted Honda to withdraw from all international motorsport that year.
After a learning year in 1965, Honda-powered Brabhams dominated the 1966 French Formula Two championship in the hands of Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme. As there was no European Championship that season, this was the top F2 championship that year. In the early 1980s Honda returned to F2, supplying engines to Ron Tauranac ‘s Ralt team. Tauranac had designed the Brabham cars for their earlier involvement.
They were again extremely successful. In a related exercise, John Judd’s Engine Developments company produced a turbo ‘Brabham-Honda’ engine for use in CART racing. It won only one race, in 1988 for Bobby Rahal at Pocono.
Honda returned to Formula One in 1983, initially with another Formula Two partner, the Spirit team, before switching abruptly to Williams in 1984. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Honda powered cars won six consecutive Formula One Constructors Championships. WilliamsF1 won the crown in 1986 and 1987.
Honda switched allegiance again in 1988. New partners Team McLaren won the title in 1988. 1989. 1990 and 1991. Honda withdrew from Formula One at the end of 1992, although the related Mugen-Honda company maintained a presence up to the end of 1999, winning four races with Ligier and Jordan Grand Prix .
Honda debuted in the American CART series as a works supplier in 1994. The engines were far from competitive at first, but after development, the company powered six consecutive drivers championships. In 2003, Honda transferred its effort to the rival Indy Racing League series. In 2004, Honda-powered cars overwhelmingly dominated IRL, winning 14 of 16 IRL events, including the Indianapolis 500, and claimed the IRL Manufacturers’ Championship, Drivers’ Championship and Rookie of the Year titles.
In 2006, Honda became the sole engine supplier for the IRL, including the Indianapolis 500. In the 2006 Indianapolis 500. for the first time in Indianapolis 500 history, the race was run without a single engine problem  .
During 1998, Honda considered returning to Formula One with their own team. The project was aborted after the death of its technical director, Harvey Postlethwaite. Honda instead came back as an official engine supplier to British American Racing (BAR) and Jordan Grand Prix.
Honda bought a stake in the BAR team in 2004 before buying the team outright at the end of 2005, becoming a constructor for the first time since the 1960s. Honda won the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix with driver Jenson Button .
Strategy and public image
During the 1960s, when it was a small manufacturer, Honda broke out of the Japanese motorcycle market and began exporting to the US. Taking Honda’s story as an archetype of the smaller manufacturer entering a new market already occupied by highly dominant competitors, the story of their market entry, and their subsequent huge success in the US and around the world, has been the subject of some academic controversy. Competing explanations have been advanced to explain Honda’s strategy and the reasons for their success.
The first of these explanations was put forward when, in 1975, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) was commissioned by the UK government to write a report explaining why and how the British motorcycle industry had been out-competed by its Japanese competitors. The report concluded that the Japanese firms, including Honda, had sought a very high scale of production (they had made a large number of motorbikes) in order to benefit from economies of scale and learning curve effects. It blamed the decline of the British motorcycle industry on the failure of British managers to invest enough in their businesses to profit from economies of scale and scope.
The second story is told in 1984 by Richard Pascale, who had interviewed the Honda executives responsible for the firm’s entry into the US market. As opposed to the tightly focused strategy of low cost and high scale that BCG accredited to Honda, Pascale found that their entry into the US market was a story of “miscalculation, serendipity, and organizational learning” in other words, Honda’s success was due to the adaptability (and hard work) of its staff, rather than any long term strategy.
For example, Honda’s initial plan on entering the US was to compete in large motorcycles, around 300cc. It was only when the team found that the scooters they were using to get themselves around their US base of San Francisco attracted positive interest from consumers that they came up with the idea of selling the Supercub.
The most recent school of thought on Honda’s strategy was put forward by Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad in 1989. Creating the concept of core competencies with Honda as an example, they argued that Honda’s success was due to its focus on leadership in the technology of internal combustion engines. For example, the high power-to-weight ratio engines Honda produced for its racing bikes provided technology and expertise which was transferable into mopeds.
Honda’s entry into the US motorcycle market during the 1960s is used as a case study for teaching introductory strategy at business schools worldwide.
Its first entrance into the pickup segment, the lightduty Ridgeline. won Truck of the Year from Motor Trend magazine in 2005, and its redesigned Civic also won Car of the Year in 2005.
Although a relatively small manufacturer compared to the other Japanese automakers, Honda is the largest engine maker in the world. Honda has a number of firsts in many categories, including the first luxury Japanese car (1987 Legend ) and motorcycle (2006 Gold Wing bikes) equipped with an airbag, as well as the first mid-size pickup truck with independent rear suspension (2006 Ridgeline ).
The 2006 Ridgeline is one of the first Uni-Body trucks produced (after the early 1980s Volkswagen Rabbit pick-up and the late 80’s to early 90’s Jeep Comanche pickup, and early 80’s Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp).
Honda has also pioneered new technology in its HA-420 HondaJet that allows new levels of reduced drag, increased aerodynamics and fuel efficiency thus reducing operating costs.
Honda’s robot ASIMO as an RD project brings together expertise to create a robot that walks, dances and navigates steps.
Honda’s official slogan is The Power of Dreams .
In 2003, Honda released its Cog advertisement in the UK and on the Internet. To make the ad, the engineers at Honda constructed a Rube Goldberg Machine made entirely out of car parts from the Honda Accord. To the despair of the engineers at Honda, all the parts were taken from 2 of only 6 hand assembled pre-production models of the Accord.
The ad depicted a single cog which sets off a chain of events that ends with the Honda Accord moving and Garrison Keillor speaking the tagline, Isn’t it nice when things just. work? It took 606 takes to get it perfect.
In 2004, they produced the Hate Something advert. which is still shown on British television now, usually immediately followed by a shortened version of the 2005/2006 Impossible Dream advert.
In 2006, Honda released its Choir advertisement, for the UK and the internet. This featured a 60-person choir who sang the car noises as film of the Honda Civic are shown.
There is also a 2006 advertisement for Honda in general (not a specific product) where an impressively mustachioed man in racing leathers starts traveling on a motorcycle, then a car, then a powerboat, then goes over a waterfall only to reappear piloting a hot air balloon, with Garrison Keillor saying I couldn’t have put it better myself as the song ends. One version of this is around two minutes long. The soundtrack is The Impossible Dream from the musical Man Of La Mancha, sung by Andy Williams.
In Australia, Honda advertised heavily during most motor racing telecasts, and were the official sponsor of the 2006 FIA Formula 1 telecast on broadcaster channel Ten. In fact, they were the only manufacturer involved in the 2006 Indy Racing League season. But in a series of adverts promoting the history of Honda’s racing heritage, Honda falsely claimed that Honda built cars that won 72 Formula 1 Grand Prix when in fact the bulk of those victories were claimed by Honda powered (engined) machines, with cars themselves designed and built by Lotus F1, Williams F1 and McLaren F1 teams respectively (see Honda F1 ).
Several commercials throughout 2006 have also featured an animated character known simply as Mr. Opportunity. The casual looking man talks about various deals offered by Honda and ends with the phrase I’m Mr. Opportunity, and I’m knockin’.
Also, commercials for Honda’s international minivan, the Jazz, are parodies of well-known pop culture images such as Tetris and Thomas The Tank Engine.
As part of their marketing campaign, Honda is an official partner and sponsor of Major League Soccer.
In Late 2006 Honda released an ad with ASIMO exploring a museum, looking at the exhibits with almost child-like wonderment (spreading out its arms in the aerospace exhibit, waving hello to an astronaut suit that resembles him, etc.), while Garrison Keillor ruminates on progress. It concludes with the tagline: More forwards please.
Facilities (partial list)
Suzuka, Mie cars
Hamamatsu, Shizuoka motorcycles
Sayama, Saitama cars, light trucks
Kikuchi, Kumamoto motorcycles, ATVs
Utsunomiya, Tochigi vehicle RD
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