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September 24, 1948 – Honda Motor Company is incorporated

In 1937 Soichiro Honda founded a company to produce piston rings for Toyota. The walls soon came tumbling down, quite literally. At first, Toyota forced him to forfeit the contracts due to poor quality of his parts. While enhanced manufacturing research led them to be reinstated, another catastrophe lurked. During WWII a US bomb fell on one of Honda’s factories, his other plant collapsed in an earthquake in 1945. His business dreams in ruin, he sold off salvageable parts and machinery. With the funds, he went in another direction, founding the Honda Technical Research Institute in 1946. This led to the development of a motorized bicycle powered by Honda’s first mass produced engine. It’s success led to the incorporation of Honda Motor Company on this day in 1948.

1949 Honda D-type
Above: 1949 Honda D-Type. By Rikita – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. Top: Honda T360, the first four wheeled vehicle from Honda. By baku13 – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.1

The next year, Honda released the D-Type Dream, the first motorcycle that included a Honda frame and engine. It’s production run ended in 1951, but from there, a variety of other models came to market. Then in 1958 the company released the Super Cub underbone motorcycle, the most produced Honda vehicle to date. It remains in production in various forms, having sold its 100 millionth unit in 2017.

1963 Honda S500. By Mytho88 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

First Honda Cars

After winning Moto Grand Prix World Championships in 125cc and 250cc in 1961, Honda began a period of rapid growth. The first production Honda four wheeler, the T360, arrived in 1963. This small pickup truck that hit the market just four months before the 1963 Honda S500 roadster. However, the 1973 Honda Civic truly changed the course of automotive history. Released the same year that Soichiro stepped down from the company, the Civic offered an affordable, eco-friendly ride that appealed to the masses all over the world, and remains so today.

Soichiro Honda
Soichiro Honda

Soichiro Honda and his business partner Takeo Fujisawa were known for thinking differently in the automotive industry. They aimed to award individual achievements instead of general success of the business. Their way of management allowed for the hiring of more creatives within design, engineering and other fields. The results were, well, look at Honda now. Soichiro Honda became the first Japanese person inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1989. He remained active in his later years, even maintaining a personal pilot license.  He passed away in August of 1991 at the age of 84.


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