The Shocking State of Motorcycles in Developing Countries

The lightweight, short-pushrod OHV engine features a gear-driven, single camshaft structure for both intake and exhaust. The shaft is located where one would find the cam-chain housing in a more conventional OHC engine.

<< 1. The Shocking State of Motorcycles in Developing Countries
<< 2. Engine concepts drawn up overnight
<< 3. Creating a Useful Bike for Developing Countries
<< 4. Fulfilling the Expectations of a Growing Region
<< 5. From Belgium to Brazil
<< 6. The Decision to Build in Manaus
<< 7. The First Factory Manager-34 Years Old
<< 8. High Inflation: The Challenge of a Crisis

Exports of motorcycles to developing countries increased dramatically during the 1970s, consistent with the growth of Southeast Asia's economies. Consumers in that region wanted practical motorcycles that could handle multiple passengers and overloading.

In order to meet the growing needs of this region, Honda exported the CS90 model with four-cycle OHC in January 1968, and then the CB100 in September 1969. In contrast, the company's competitors were exporting two-stroke, 100-cc models. Due to a lack of proper maintenance-a condition unique to that part of the world-Honda was losing ground to other manufacturers. In response, Honda developed a model featuring its new OHV engine, exporting it as the S110 in March 1973. The real problem, however, was not so easily solved.

In May 1974, in order to conduct thorough research in actual markets under real-world conditions, Takeshi Inagaki, who was in charge of creating motorcycles for developing countries, and Einosuke Miyachi, the man in charge of design, left Japan from Haneda International Airport. They spent a month watching motorcycle users in major cities throughout Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Iran, and Pakistan. What they saw, though, was beyond anything they could have imagined.

"It was normal to see a child on the tank and the wife at the back, with two to four people riding together," Inagaki recalled. "And some people loaded vegetables, chickens, and pigs onto their motorcycles. I even saw motorcycles towing loaded carts."

The dealer situation, too, was completely different from that found in Japan. At the time, the dealer's primary responsibility was to disassemble and repair motorcycles that were not in working condition. Customers typically brought their motorcycles in only when they had stopped running. Therefore, the concept of routine maintenance was completely foreign to the dealers and customers.

"They continued to use oil even after it had turned into goo," Inagaki said, "and the paper filter elements in the air cleaners would become solid as a dirt wall from all the dust. The drive chains would be stretched out to their maximum adjustable lengths, and were worn and torn from hitting the chain case. The examples of such abuse went on and on. One after another, we saw spectacles we'd never even imagined possible from our home base in Japan."

It was thus apparent that due to their complex structure the four-cycle, OHC motorcycles could not perform to their true potential in developing countries, where people subjected their bikes in the harshest conditions and the dealers were unable to provide sufficient service.
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