Problems with the Main Product

The N600, the first Honda car sold in the U.S., was marketed through American Honda's motorcycle sales network. In those days, N600s were displayed alongside their two-wheeled cousins.

The decade of the 1960s was soon in full swing, and amid this new atmosphere of progressivism and possibility-the fabled Jet Age-Honda's monthly sales hit several hundred units.

"It looks like we may be able to do it in America," Kawashima thought, but he was simply flushed with the potential of the moment. For just as he had begun to experience some results, along came the news that problems were occurring with Honda products. Several of the engines in American Honda's main products, the Dream and Benly, had overheated and seized up. In fact, seizing had occurred in more than 150 of them. Mechanics were immediately dispatched from Japan, and Honda went to work in order to deal with the problem. Kawashima knew that a number of the same products were on their way over from Japan to the Port of Los Angeles, so he would have to do something soon. He wracked his brain trying to come up with the answer.

Kawashima's first notion was to have some of the necessary parts sent from Japan, so that the defective products could be repaired prior to sale. He did not want to lose the confidence of his dealers and customers, precisely at a time when business was gaining some momentum. With that, he made his decision.

"As long as we're rooted here in America, we want to be able to sell flawless products with total confidence in their quality," Kawashima said in describing his situation to Fujisawa. "We want to send back all the problem products to Japan."

All units from the same, problematic model lines were then recalled from the dealerships, and product in stock was sent back to Japan. Further, more than 100 units that had arrived at port from across the Pacific were returned without ever being unloaded.

"Had we sold the product back then, after fixing it onshore," recalled Kawashima, "we would have found ourselves with a very bad reputation. Instead, all units were recalled from the dealers and sent back to Japan. Then we started business again with brand-new product. I think the American motorcycle shops were very impressed with our actions."

The motorcycle shops were indeed impressed, applauding Honda for engineering as well as professionalism. After all, they had always believed that any motorcycle on display would drip oil, yet not a drop came from the Honda bikes.
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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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