Friday September 24, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Honda
On this Day:
In 1948, The Honda Motor Company was founded in Hamamatsu-city, Japan. However, Honda kicked its starter much earlier…
Honda Motor Company, Ltd., commonly simply known as Honda, is a Japanese public multinational conglomerate manufacturer of automobiles, motorcycles, and power equipment, headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Japan.
Honda has been the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer since 1959, reaching a production of 400 million by the end of 2019, as well as the world’s largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines measured by volume, producing more than 14 million internal combustion engines each year. Honda became the second-largest Japanese automobile manufacturer in 2001. Honda was the eighth largest automobile manufacturer in the world in 2015.
Honda was the first Japanese automobile manufacturer to release a dedicated luxury brand, Acura, in 1986. Aside from their core automobile and motorcycle businesses, Honda also manufactures garden equipment, marine engines, personal watercraft and power generators, and other products. Since 1986, Honda has been involved with artificial intelligence/robotics research and released their ASIMO robot in 2000. They have also ventured into aerospace with the establishment of GE Honda Aero Engines in 2004 and the Honda HA-420 HondaJet, which began production in 2012. Honda has two joint-ventures in China: Dongfeng Honda and Guangqi Honda.
In 2013, Honda invested about 5.7% (US$6.8 billion) of its revenues in research and development. Also in 2013, Honda became the first Japanese automaker to be a net exporter from the United States, exporting 108,705 Honda and Acura models, while importing only 88,357.
Throughout his life, Honda’s founder, Soichiro Honda, had an interest in automobiles. He worked as a mechanic at the Art Shokai garage, where he tuned cars and entered them in races. In 1937, with financing from his acquaintance Kato Shichirō, Honda founded Tōkai Seiki (Eastern Sea Precision Machine Company) to make piston rings working out of the Art Shokai garage. After initial failures, Tōkai Seiki won a contract to supply piston rings to Toyota, but lost the contract due to the poor quality of their products. After attending engineering school without graduating, and visiting factories around Japan to better understand Toyota’s quality control processes known as “Five whys”, by 1941 Honda was able to mass-produce piston rings acceptable to Toyota, using an automated process that could employ even unskilled wartime laborers.
Tōkai Seiki was placed under the control of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (called the Ministry of Munitions after 1943) at the start of World War II, and Soichiro Honda was demoted from president to senior managing director after Toyota took a 40% stake in the company. Honda also aided the war effort by assisting other companies in automating the production of military aircraft propellers. The relationships Honda cultivated with personnel at Toyota, Nakajima Aircraft Company and the Imperial Japanese Navy would be instrumental in the postwar period. A US B-29 bomber attack destroyed Tōkai Seiki’s Yamashita plant in 1944, and the Itawa plant collapsed on 13 January 1945 Mikawa earthquake. Soichiro Honda sold the salvageable remains of the company to Toyota after the war for ¥450,000 and used the proceeds to found the Honda Technical Research Institute in October 1946.
With a staff of 12 men working in a 16 m2 (170 sq ft) shack, they built and sold improvised motorized bicycles, using a supply of 500 two-stroke 50 cc Tohatsu war surplus radio generator engines. When the engines ran out, Honda began building their own copy of the Tohatsu engine, and supplying these to customers to attach to their bicycles. This was the Honda A-Type, nicknamed the Bata Bata for the sound the engine made. In 1949, the Honda Technical Research Institute was liquidated for ¥1,000,000, or about US$5,000 today; these funds were used to incorporate Honda Motor Co., Ltd. At about the same time Honda hired engineer Kihachiro Kawashima, and Takeo Fujisawa who provided indispensable business and marketing expertise to complement Soichiro Honda’s technical bent. The close partnership between Soichiro Honda and Fujisawa lasted until they stepped down together in October 1973.
The first complete motorcycle, with both the frame and engine made by Honda, was the 1949 D-Type, the first Honda to go by the name Dream. In 1961, Honda achieved its first Grand Prix victories and World Championships in 125cc and 250cc. Honda Motor Company grew in a short time to become the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles by 1964.
The first production automobile from Honda was the T360 mini pick-up truck, which went on sale in August 1963. Powered by a small 356-cc straight-4 gasoline engine, it was classified under the cheaper Kei car tax bracket. The first production car from Honda was the S500 sports car, which followed the T360 into production in October 1963. Its chain-driven rear wheels pointed to Honda’s motorcycle origins.
Over the next few decades, Honda worked to expand its product line and expanded operations and exports to numerous countries around the world. In 1986, Honda introduced the successful Acura brand to the American market in an attempt to gain ground in the luxury vehicle market. The year 1991 saw the introduction of the Honda NSX supercar, the first all-aluminum monocoque vehicle that incorporated a mid-engine V6 with variable-valve timing.
CEO Tadashi Kume was succeeded by Nobuhiko Kawamoto in 1990. Kawamoto was selected over Shoichiro Irimajiri, who oversaw the successful establishment of Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc. in Marysville, Ohio. Irimajiri and Kawamoto shared a friendly rivalry within Honda; owing to health issues, Irimajiri would resign in 1992.
Following the death of Soichiro Honda and the departure of Irimajiri, Honda found itself quickly being outpaced in product development by other Japanese automakers and was caught off-guard by the truck and sport utility vehicle boom of the 1990s, all which took a toll on the profitability of the company. Japanese media reported in 1992 and 1993 that Honda was at serious risk of an unwanted and hostile takeover by Mitsubishi Motors, which at the time was a larger automaker by volume and was flush with profits from its successful Pajero and Diamante models.
Kawamoto acted quickly to change Honda’s corporate culture, rushing through market-driven product development that resulted in recreational vehicles such as the first-generation Odyssey and the CR-V, and a refocusing away from some of the numerous sedans and coupes that were popular with the company’s engineers but not with the buying public. The most shocking change to Honda came when Kawamoto ended the company’s successful participation in Formula One after the 1992 season, citing costs in light of the takeover threat from Mitsubishi as well as the desire to create a more environmentally friendly company image.
The Honda Aircraft Company as established in 2006 as a wholly owned subsidiary to manufacture and sell the HondaJet family of aircraft. The first deliveries to customers began in December 2015.
On 23 February 2015, Honda announced that CEO and President Takanobu Ito would step down and be replaced by Takahiro Hachigo by June; additional retirements by senior managers and directors were expected.
In October 2019, Honda was reported to be in talks with Hitachi to merge the two companies’ car parts businesses, creating a components supplier with almost $17 billion in annual sales.
In January 2020, Honda announced that it would be withdrawing employees working in the city of Wuhan, Hubei, China due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the global spread of the virus, Honda became the first major automaker with operations in the US to suspend production in its factories on March 23, 2020. It resumed automobile, engine and transmission production at its US plants on May 11, 2020.
Honda and General Motors announced in September 2020 a North American alliance to begin in 2021. According to The Detroit Free Press, “The proposed alliance will include sharing a range of vehicles, to be sold under each company’s distinct brands, as well as cooperation in purchasing, research and development, and connected services” (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
My wife is car shopping, and looking at Hondas. She saw an ad for a Honda Pilot, but it was sold by the time she called.
So it seems the Pilots are flying off the lot…
Second, a Song:
The Beach Boys are an American rock band that formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961. The group’s original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine. Distinguished by their vocal harmonies, adolescent-oriented themes, and musical ingenuity, they are one of the most influential acts of the rock era. They drew on the music of older pop vocal groups, 1950s rock and roll, and black R&B to create their unique sound, and under Brian’s direction, often incorporated classical or jazz elements and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways.
One of the first self-contained rock groups, the Beach Boys began as a garage band, managed by the Wilsons’ father Murry, and with Brian as composer, arranger, producer, and de facto leader. In 1963, they had their first national hit with “Surfin’ U.S.A.”, beginning a string of top-ten singles that reflected a southern California youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance, dubbed the “California sound”. They were one of the few American rock bands to sustain their commercial standing during the British Invasion. Starting with 1965’s The Beach Boys Today!, they abandoned beachgoing themes for more personal lyrics and ambitious orchestrations. In 1966, the Pet Sounds album and “Good Vibrations” single raised the group’s prestige as rock innovators. After scrapping the Smile album in 1967, Brian gradually ceded control of the group to his bandmates.
In the late 1960s, the group’s commercial momentum faltered in the US, and despite efforts to maintain an experimental sound, they were widely dismissed by the early rock music press. Carl took over as the band’s musical leader; records from this period later enjoyed a cult following among fans. In the mid-1970s, as their concerts drew larger audiences, the band transitioned into an oldies act. Dennis drowned in 1983 and Brian soon became estranged from the group. Following Carl’s death from lung cancer in 1998, the band granted Love legal rights to tour under the group’s name. In the early 2010s, the original members briefly reunited for the band’s 50th anniversary. As of 2021, Wilson and Jardine do not perform with Love’s edition of the Beach Boys, but remain official members of the band.
The Beach Boys are one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful bands of all time, selling over 100 million records worldwide. They helped legitimize popular music as a recognized art form and influenced the development of music genres and movements such as psychedelia, power pop, progressive rock, punk, alternative, and lo-fi. Between the 1960s and 2010s, the group had 36 songs reach the US Top 40 (the most by an American band), with four topping the Billboard Hot 100. In 2004, they were ranked number 12 on Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest artists of all time. The founding members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
“Little Honda” is a song written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love for the American rock band the Beach Boys. It was released on their 1964 album All Summer Long, and featured on their EP, Four by The Beach Boys. The song pays tribute to the small Honda motorcycle and its ease of operation, specifically the Honda 50.
Immediately following its appearance on All Summer Long, the song was covered by The Hondells, whose recording produced by Gary Usher peaked at #9 on the U.S. Billboard 100. Capitol Records then later released it as a single for the Beach Boys, and their version peaked at #65 on the U.S. Billboard 100 (per Wikipedia).
Here is “Little Honda” by The Beach Boys, set to images by Bonneville66. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“There is a Japanese proverb that literally goes ‘Raise the sail with your stronger hand’, meaning you must go after the opportunities that arise in life that you are best equipped to do.” – Soichiro Honda
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky