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.

When the Customer Says,

The longtail's engine operates with its body kept at an angle. Understanding the actual conditions of engine use had led to many of the features employed in the ZE engine. (Photographed in Indonesia)

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.

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

Page Top

Honda Worldwide site

Home | Site Map | Site Index | About this Site

Copyright, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. and its subsidiaries and affiliates. All Rights Reserved.