The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983

The Concept: An OHV + Inclined Cylinder that Changed the World of General Purpose Engines

The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983

When the Customer Says, "It Has to Be Honda"

Honda's ME engines proved popular throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand, where the demand was so strong that some retailers stopped displaying the engine because it would easily sell right out of the box. In fact, other manufacturers began finishing their products in red and white, because so many customers had specified "that red-and-white engine." However, it was not all roses for Honda. Out in the OEM market there were harsher realities to face.

Photo

The chassis-only tillers displayed at a retailer in Thailand. They are sold after being fitted with a separate, general purpose engine. Engines lacking installation compatibility are shut out of the retail sales channel.

The ME engine, developed through a series of efforts intended to reduce its cost by half, was as much as 2,000 yen cheaper than other manufacturers' engines of the same class. The ME engine was also 10 percent cheaper than its rivals in the OEM market, where the price would vary according to the number of units ordered. Therefore, cost was the key selling point for general purpose engines, and everyone knew Honda, with its lower price point, had the advantage. As it turned out, though, a low price didn't benefit the company to the expected degree.

Yamaguchi himself also visited OEM companies in Japan, where he promoted the ME engine. However, he was on the receiving end of critical comments:

"Although the engine itself costs less," they would say, "it costs extra to install and test it in our machine. It also requires a lot of difficult, cumbersome work. We don't think we want your engine."

Others would say things like, "It's a great-looking product, but we cannot adopt it unless your products are designed to fit our machines with the absolute assurance there won't be any problems. That's what the other suppliers do."

Yamaguchi gave demonstrations amply proving the engine's performance, sometimes out in the snow and bitter cold. However, following a series of disappointments his once-abundant optimism had been left shattered in pieces. One comment he received from a manufacturer of construction machinery was a particularly heavy blow:

"Mr. Yamaguchi, it's true that a savings of 2,000 yen would add to our company's profits. However this saving wouldn't be passed on to the completed machines as a significant price advantage in the market. In other words, there would be no benefit for the customer who used the product to choose one with the Honda engine."

Those words had come as a shock to Yamaguchi. After all, he and his colleagues had studied regional markets with their own eyes, observing engine uses and identifying problems. He was confident they had created a price-competitive engine that met all the requirements.

"Our goal is to create an engine that satisfies the customers who use it," Yamaguchi would say. "I want to hear them say, 'It has to be Honda' the next time they purchase an engine. This feeling is shared by all the engineers at Honda."

This man, though, was saying their effort was not being appreciated by the consuming public. Moreover, price had nothing to do with it. As Yamaguchi said, "It was a tremendous shock to me as an engineer."

The ME engine was undoubtedly a success, though, and because of that Honda was able to compete with other manufacturers who were active in the same arena. Although their comments were rather harsh, those OEM companies would not have even looked at Honda engines if it had not been for the ME model. Still, Honda needed a decisive edge in order to lead the competition and make the customer say, "It has to be Honda."

One comment stood out in Yamaguchi's mind: "Don't depend on (price) difference alone, but make use of the product's uniqueness." This painful experience ultimately became the foundation for development of the ZE engine.

Photo

The Honda ZE engine series, featuring OHV+inclined cylinders

The Challenging Spirit of Honda

A System that Fosters Expertise
  1. A System that Fosters ExpertiseA System that Fosters Expertise
  2. The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960The R&D Center Goes Independent / 1960
  3. Employing the "My Record" Project and Expert Certification  / 1960Employing the "My Record" Project and Expert Certification / 1960
A Dream Come True: Car Builder for the World
  1. A Dream Come True: Car Builder for the WorldA Dream Come True: Car Builder for the World
  2. Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962Launching the S360 and T360 / 1962
  3. Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966Entering the Auto Market at Last / 1966
  4. Introducing N360 / 1967Introducing N360 / 1967
  5. Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968Launching the Honda 1300 / 1968
  6. Introducing the CVCC / 1972Introducing the CVCC / 1972
  7. Announcing the Civic / 1972Announcing the Civic / 1972
  8. Introducing the Accord / 1976Introducing the Accord / 1976
Marketing Globally, Producing Lacally
  1. Marketing Globally, Producing LocallyMarketing Globally, Producing Locally
  2. Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959
  3. Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963Establishing Belgium Honda / 1963
  4. Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980Establishing Honda of America Manufacturing / 1980
A Refreshing New Development
  1. A Refreshing New DevelopmentA Refreshing New Development
Products Emerging From Technology and Innovation
  1. Products Emerging From Technology and InnovationProducts Emerging From Technology and Innovation
  2. The Oval Piston Engine / 1979The Oval Piston Engine / 1979
  3. The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968The Hondamatic Transmission / 1968
  4. The Car Navigation System / 1981The Car Navigation System / 1981
  5. The Airbag System / 1987The Airbag System / 1987
  6. Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987Four-Wheel Steering System (4WS) / 1987
  7. The VTEC Engine / 1989The VTEC Engine / 1989
  8. The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977The ME Engine (G100 / 150 / 200 / 300 / 400 Series) / 1977
  9. The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983The ZE Engine (GX110 / 140 / 240 / 270 / 340 Series) / 1983
  10. The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969The Dream CB750 FOUR / 1969
  11. CG125 / 1975CG125 / 1975
  12. Road Pal / 1976Road Pal / 1976
  13. City / 1981City / 1981
  14. The NSX / 1990The NSX / 1990
  15. Odyssey / 1994Odyssey / 1994
  16. Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988Honda EV Plus: The Dream of an Electric Vehicle / 1988
  17. The E300 Portable Generator / 1965The E300 Portable Generator / 1965
  18. The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978The HR21 Lawn Mower / 1978
  19. The F200 "Komame" Mini-Tiller / 1980The F200 "Komame" Mini-Tiller / 1980
Production Technology: The Essence of Creative Manufacturing
  1. Production Technology: The Essence of Creative ManufaturingProduction Technology: The Essence of Creative Manufaturing
  2. Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974Establishment of Honda Engineering / 1974
  3. The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982The World's Smallest Welding Line / 1982
  4. Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981Transfer Lines for Modular Components / 1981
  5. An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988An Automated Line for Painting and Coating / 1988
A Neverending Passion for Racing
  1. A Neverending Passion for RacingA Neverending Passion for Racing
  2. Completion of Suzuka Circuit / 1962Completion of Suzuka Circuit / 1962
  3. Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979Returning to the World Motorcycle Grand Prix / 1979
  4. Formula One Entry: The Initial Phase / 1964Formula One Entry: The Initial Phase / 1964
  5. Formula One Entry: The Second Phase / 1983Formula One Entry: The Second Phase / 1983
  6. Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994Entry to Champ Car Racing / 1994
  7. The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997The Birth of Twin Ring Motegi / 1997
Creativity - The Way to Work Harder, Play Harder
  1. Creativity – The Way to Work Harder, Play Harder Creativity – The Way to Work Harder, Play Harder
  2. Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970Holding All Honda Idea Contests / 1970
People and Society Coexisting in Harmony with Nature
  1. People and Society Coexisting in Harmony with NaturePeople and Society Coexisting in Harmony with Nature
  2. 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
  3. Creating Hometown Forests / 1977Creating Hometown Forests / 1977
  4. Hosting "Orei-no-kai" / 1991Hosting "Orei-no-kai" / 1991

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