Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963

Crossing Boundaries to International Production

Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963

A Decision by the EEC Research Team

The research team thus began to focus on West Germany, the EEC's most stable economic power, as the best candidate for factory operations. The team decided to stop by European Honda in order to get a briefing on the market situation, after which the research would continue in West Germany. Therefore, at the end of January 1962, the trio of researchers headed for Hamburg, with Iwamura leading the way.

A Decision by the EEC Research Team

Front view of the factory at Belgium Honda. Today it produces automobile parts.

The three members of the research team spent more than two weeks traveling through West Germany's major industrial cities, collecting information for analysis. Along with the progress in their work came a certain realization regarding the European market; an assessment that no preliminary research, book, or other resource could have provided.

It was the moped*1 that had entered the picture. The wide use of these vehicles throughout the region was much more than the team could have anticipated. Of the estimated annual demand of 2 million motorcycles in Europe, about 80 percent was for mopeds. Many European streets even had special bicycle/moped routes bordering the sidewalk. Thus, the moped had long since established itself as a popular means of transportation in the region.

France was the EEC's top producer of mopeds, with annual production exceeding 1 million units. Other major producers of mopeds were Italy, West Germany, and England. Much like the Japanese motorcycle industry surrounding Honda in its earliest days, a number of small midsize manufacturers were producing mopeds in different factory locations.

Moreover, it was soon apparent that West Germany had numerous drawbacks. For example, it was home to several major manufacturers of motorcycles and mopeds, including BMW. Its labor market was nearly fully employed, and the minimum wage had reached a fairly high level. West German prices were also higher than any of the remaining five EEC countries. It would therefore cost considerably more to obtain a decent-size lot for the construction of a factory, buildings, facilities, and the employment of many people.

The research team thus expanded its purview to include all the EEC countries, with the exception of Luxembourg. Soon, as the team compared and examined conditions in each country, Italy and France were scratched from the list for much the same reason as West Germany. In the end, only two countries remained: the Netherlands and Belgium.

Among the EEC countries, the Netherlands and Belgium were somewhat behind in terms of modern industrialization. However, since the launch of the EEC they had been working to promote industrialization by actively soliciting funds, including foreign investments. Therefore, both nations greeted Honda's research team with open arms, enthusiastically inviting Honda to establish a factory in their country. Government officials personally escorted the research team on tours, introducing a variety of possible sites.

After seeing first-hand the conditions in the two countries, the researchers began to favor Belgium as the more appropriate location.

Belgian cities already had many factories. Though small, these factories were known as highly reliable suppliers of parts to the carmakers of West Germany. Moreover, the minimum wage was low compared to West Germany's, and the prospects were good concerning a sufficient pool of skilled labor. Added to that was a major push by the small city of Aalst, which began to woo the research team during their tour.

Aalst was a small town with a population of about 50,000, located within a 40-kilometer radius of both Brussels (the capital) and Antwerp, a free-trade port city. While Aalst and the two cities were connected via expressways, there also was a canal connecting Aalst to Antwerp, upon which goods could be transported. Moreover, the city fulfilled all the conditions for corporate activities, including materials procurement.

The research team ultimately chose Brussels as its candidate site for the construction of Honda's European head office, which would double as a sales base, while Aalst was selected as the candidate site for factory construction. The two-month research tour had at last concluded, and the team was ready for its return to Japan.


*1 Moped. Mopeds refer to European bikes that are equipped with pedals. In Japan, they are now called 'mopetto.' While mopeds were by law restricted to engine displacements of 50 cc or less and a maximum speed of 40 kilometers per hour (varying somewhat amoung countries), they also were given tax privileges in taxes, insurance, and special traffic rules. Moreover, the minimum operating age without a license was sixteen years. The moped - actually a kind of motorized bicycle, belongs to an entirely different category than motorcycles such as the Super Cub and scooter.

The Challenging Spirit of Honda

1990 - 1999
  1. The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997
  2. Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994
  3. Odyssey / 1994Odyssey / 1994
  4. Establishment of Honda Taiyo, Kibo-no-Sato Honda and Honda R&D Taiyo / 1992Establishment of Honda Taiyo, Kibo-no-Sato Honda and Honda R&D Taiyo / 1992
  5. Hosting Hosting "Orei-no-kai" / 1991
  6. The NSX / 1990The NSX / 1990
1980 - 1989
  1. The VTEC Engine / 1989The VTEC Engine / 1989
  2. Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988
  3. An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988
  4. Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987
  5. The Airbag System / 1987The Airbag System / 1987
  6. The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983
  7. Formula One Entry / 1983Formula One Entry / 1983
  8. Development of Honda's Franz System Car / 1982Development of Honda's Franz System Car / 1982
  9. The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982
  10. Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981
  11. The Car Navigation System / 1981The Car Navigation System / 1981
  12. City / 1981City / 1981
  13. The F200 The F200 "Komame" Mini-Tiller / 1980
  14. Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980
1970 - 1979
  1. The Oval Piston Engine / 1979The Oval Piston Engine / 1979
  2. Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979
  3. The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978
  4. Creating Hometown Forests / 1977Creating Hometown Forests / 1977
  5. The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977
  6. Introducing the Accord / 1976Introducing the Accord / 1976
  7. CG125 / 1975CG125 / 1975
  8. Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974
  9. Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973
  10. Announcing the Civic / 1972Announcing the Civic / 1972
  11. Introducing the CVCC / 1972Introducing the CVCC / 1972
  12. Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970
  13. Launching the Office of Safe Driving Promotional Operations / 1970Launching the Office of Safe Driving Promotional Operations / 1970
1960 - 1969
  1. The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969
  2. Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968
  3. The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968
  4. Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966
  5. The E300 Portable Generator / 1965The E300 Portable Generator / 1965
  6. Formula One Entry / 1964Formula One Entry / 1964
  7. Kyoto: Celebrating the Company's 15th Anniversary / 1963Kyoto: Celebrating the Company's 15th Anniversary / 1963
  8. Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963
  9. Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962
  10. Employing the Employing the "My Record" Project and Expert Certification / 1960
  11. The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960
1950 - 1959
  1. Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959

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