Honda’s first mass-produced passenger vehicle, the N360, was launched in March 1967. The car embodied the passion for the ideal car of founder Soichiro Honda.
Soichiro placed particularly high importance on interior comfort, power, and price.
At the time, he said of interior comfort, “Cars can be made smaller, but not the people who use them. It would be difficult to make only cars small” (Honda Company News, No. 28, as published in February 1958). Honda started with the cabin when it designed the N360 with the goal of creating a car with a comfortable cabin space, different from other mini-vehicles that compelled customers to endure discomfort. By minimizing space required for mechanical components such as engine room, Honda engineers were able to maximize seating space for passengers. This approach was to become part of the M/M concept (man maximum, machine minimum) that forms the basis of Honda’s approach to the manufacture of automobiles.
Concerning power, Soichiro said, “The many mini-vehicles that have been made to date are by no means well suited to Japan’s roads. This is because they lack power, which is the primary determinant of consumers’ emotional reaction to cars. A lack of power means these cars won’t accelerate. They can’t be driven quickly, and the resulting inability to pass could cause many traffic accidents” (Honda Company News, No. 41, as published in March 1959). Soichiro required the N360 to have a powerful engine. As a result, the vehicle delivered so much power that journalists participating in a test-drive event remarked with interest that it “accelerates as if it were a sports car.”
When the N360 was priced at ¥313,000—tens of thousands of yen cheaper than competitors’ offerings—some employees at the time questioned whether it needed to be sold so cheaply. But Soichiro wanted to make the N360 “the highest-performance, most affordable compact car in the world” so that it would become the “second Cub,” referring to Honda’s popular motorbike (from a lecture given in November 1947). His dream was to fill the world with this vehicle into which he had poured himself, so drastic pricing was set.
Today, Honda Philosophy is founded on the Three Joys (the joy of buying, the joy of selling and the joy of creating). Soichiro placed particular weight on the joy of buying. The pursuit of interior comfort, power, and price as described above was undertaken in order to deliver this joy of buying. As a result, the N360 became the top-selling mini-vehicle just two months after its launch. Honda began exporting the car in volume in 1968, and cumulative production units of the N series had passed the 1 million mark by 1970. The vehicle, which redrew the map of the mini-vehicle industry, brought the joy of buying to a large number of customers, just as Soichiro Honda had intended.
The N series is back after more than forty years, having inherited the DNA of the N360. Through it, our founder’s dream of bringing joy to customers lives on, uninterrupted.
Honda launched the N360 in 1967 during Japan’s period of high economic growth in an effort to create the ultimate citizen’s car. It is significant for Honda that the company’s first mass-produced passenger vehicle was a mini-vehicle. As is apparent from the fact that Honda’s history began with the production of auxiliary engines for bicycles, Honda’s roots stretch back to basic, daily mobility. What we at Honda are trying to do today has not changed at all from the time of our company’s founding: to manufacture products that meet customer needs.
Following the Lehman Shock, the trend in the automotive market quickly shifted to small, mini-vehicles. Although large vehicles make a larger contribution to the bottom line from a purely profit-oriented perspective, Honda’s commitment to being a company that society wants to exist requires it to reliably deliver products that are good for customers. The N series was created through a sustained research effort that sought to get back to Honda’s roots—meeting customers’ needs. That overriding goal encompasses everything that employees involved with the N series think about on a daily basis.
The N series incorporates the message that we wish customers to experience again the joy of car ownership that characterized the era of the N360. But this wish goes further than mere nostalgia, and it goes further than low cost and good fuel economy. The N series expresses the joy of car ownership for a new era in a way that is uniquely Honda.
What does being a Honda-style mini-vehicle mean? It can only mean a completely new type of mini-vehicle that offers value not found in competing products. That’s why we redesigned the N series’ platform and engine to maximize the technology and brand strength of Honda. Thanks to technologies such as a center-tank layout and new engine, this new vehicle is extremely efficient. Functional beauty born of the pursuit of maximum efficiency: We believe that’s what being uniquely Honda means for the N series.