The Car that United Many Spirits
Honda cars equipped with Techmatic driving-assistance devices for the handicapped went on sale beginning in 1976, and were drawing considerable attention from physically challenged people. This was a significant development, since disabled persons could at last realize the benefits of personal transportation, which would ultimately help them resume their place in society.
An engineer adjusting the steering pedal of the Franz System Car at BBC's Mannheim Plant
Tetsuya Tokawa, a sales representative at Honda Higo (currently Honda Clio Kumamoto), was consulting his physically challenged customers. A willing assistant under circumstances such as these, he would often make trips to the Kumamoto Prefectural Police in order to inquire about driver's licenses, or to the Welfare Section at Kumamoto City Hall to apply for subsidies.
Through his dealings with disabled persons, Tokawa began to see the need for a special organization through which safe, convenient driving could be promoted throughout all communities where people lived with such physical difficulty. Such an organization would help them regain their independence and enjoy more fulfilling lives. However, at the time it was still difficult for the physically challenged person to get a driver's license due to regulatory hurdles. Tokawa was hoping that organized programs to promote safe driving would lead to improvements in licensing.
Tokawa went to his boss, Masanori Soga - the president of Honda Higo - with his idea. To his great pleasure, Soga not only welcomed the idea of establishing such an organization, but advised him on how they could design an organization that would help physically challenged persons enjoy the benefits of automobile ownership. Tokawa inaugurated the Safety Club Higo on March 5, 1978, based on advice from Soga and Honda Motor's Office of Safe Driving Promotional Operations, and with help from Kumamoto Prefectural Police Headquarters. Representing the Prefectural Police, Sosuke Kawakami, vice-head of the Traffic Police Squad, attended the inauguration ceremony as a guest of honor.
"There were some concerns at first," Kawakami said, "because the club was starting out rather small in scale. However, in observing their activities those concerns soon disappeared. Instead, we joined in discussions with club members, examining ways to ensure a safe lifestyle for physically challenged persons."
The club's seventy members were mostly residents of Kumamoto Prefecture who had physical challenges. The club began its operation with the goal of fostering friendships among the members and promoting regional traffic safety. Specifically, the members used the facilities of the Fukuoka Traffic Education Center to learn the facts and skills required for safe driving.