Selling to America ... with Eight Employees

Holding up the You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda. poster are Kihachiro Kawashima (then general manager of American Honda), left, and Takeo Fujisawa (then senior managing director of Honda Motor), second from right.

American Honda began its sales activities in September 1959, with a tiny staff of eight. The company's lead products were the Dream, Benly, and Super Cub (called the Honda 50, in the U.S.), which had just made its Japanese debut. There was nothing small about the monthly sales goal, though. It was immediately set at a lofty 1,000 units.

The thinking was, they simply couldn't grow without adapting their management strategies to the local community. Employees were hired locally, making for a total sales force of eight people, including Kawashima and his subordinate, Takayuki Kobayashi. In truth, the locally hired people proved beneficial to Honda's effort, since they had connections with existing dealers throughout Southern California. Mailings were sent to those dealers, while Kawashima himself visited shops in an effort to promote Honda motorcycles. Moreover, the company ran ads in local trade papers and motorcycle magazines, hoping to entice dealers. Not surprisingly, managers from the dealerships began appearing at American Honda, hoping to test-drive the bikes.

They had been handling American brands like Harley-Davidson and European imports like Norton and BMW, so the Honda motorcycles, with their small frames and strange, boxy features, looked like nothing they had seen before. In fact, many of them thought the product would never sell. Those who test-drove the motorcycles were invariably impressed by their performance, and often they would purchase bikes as examples of Japanese design and craftsmanship.

The decade of the 1950s came to an end just three months after American Honda's sales activities began, leaving the company with a sales record of a mere 170 units. Obviously, it was a far cry from their 1,000-unit monthly sales goal, and it was equally obvious that the road ahead would be neither smooth nor fast.
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<< Achieving a Breakthrough in America Photo >>
<< Building the Honda Sales Network
<< A Wind from the West, Blowing Across the American Landscape
<< Selling to America ... with Eight Employees
<< Problems with the Main Product
<< The Motorcycle as Popular Product
<< Changing the Image of an Entire Industry
<< Nicest People Campaign Causes a Sensation
<< Coping with a Sales Slump in the Mid-60s
<< Building a Network for Auto Sales
<< Satisfaction: Our Own Customers, Our Own Work
<< American Activities Take Root

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