The First Factory Manager-34 Years Old

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<< 4. Fulfilling the Expectations of a Growing Region
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<< 6. The Decision to Build in Manaus
<< 7. The First Factory Manager-34 Years Old
<< 8. High Inflation: The Challenge of a Crisis

The Brazilian motorcycle company and plant started as Moto Honda da Amazonia (HDA), a joint venture with 60 percent Honda Motor investment and 40 percent from Moto Importadora. Kazuhira Kato, who was to serve as the factory's first manager, was just 34 years of age. Most of the dozen or so employees from Japan were young as well, and many were still in their 20s. Nevertheless, they struggled under the burning sun alongside local construction workers. Outfitting the factory without the help of forklifts or cranes was made possible only with the help and advice of the locals themselves. Because many locally hired associates could barely write their own names, Kato gave instructions that all charts depicting standards of operation should be made using pictures.

Brazil was at that time a local producer and seller of Volkswagen Beetles, in a market that had grown through the development of an expressway network in the city of São Paulo. To meet the conditions of mixed traffic-and to satisfy local preferences in motorcycles-the CG125, which had just gone on sale in developing countries such as Southeast Asia, was selected for production at HDA. Therefore, in October 1976, HDA began large-scale production of the CG125.

The combination of hardworking young Japanese employees and aspiring local associates resulted in effective teamwork. As part of that process, Honda's principle of "focusing on real-world, on-site operations, while facing up to the challenges inherent in reaching a goal" was disseminated among all personnel.

"Mr. Kato and others, who made up the first team of Japanese workers at HDA, went through some extreme hardships," Fukatsu remembered. "Nevertheless, they built a solid foundation for the growth of HDA." The Manaus Factory is special, since it produces a high percentage of its own parts.

"Parts manufacturers in Brazil were oriented toward car production," said Katsuhiro Aizawa, the second director at Honda's Brazilian R&D Center. "Their production plants were also concentrated in São Paulo. In Manaus, we had a geographical disadvantage of being about 4,500 kilometers away. That's why in Manaus we promoted the in-house production of parts, even those not made by our Kumamoto Factory. We did it with the help of many parts makers with whom we had good business relationships."

The Brazilian R&D Center greatly improved the process of meeting the local-content stipulation. It did so by drawing up plans for the CG125 that directly reflected makers' demands that it be built using local supplies. The R&D Center was also a significant contributor to other accomplishments, including the development of alcohol-fueled vehicles unique to Brazil.
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