In January 1954, HONDA’s Juno K-Type made its debut. This was the most advanced scooter so far, making the most of many innovations in its mechanism. At that time the scooter industry was dominated by Fuji Heavy Industries with its Rabbit and Shin Mitsubishi Heavy Industries with its Silver Pigeon, which had a major market separate from motorcycles and auxiliary engines for bicycles.
An advertisement for the Juno K-Type placed by the Japan Bike Industry Co. in the January 1955 issue of the company public relations newsletter Friends of Honda: "It feels like flying!" The Juno K-Type turned out to be a failure due to its excessive innovation, but it resulted in research on a new material-plastic-that brought a large pay-off later with the Super Cub."
Into that market, a fully prepared Honda placed its Juno K-Type. This product was packed with new features not seen in the scooters offered by the rival manufacturers it was going up against. It had the world’s first self-starter on a two-wheeled vehicle and a large, all-weather windscreen which was further equipped with turn-signal lights, another first. It was practically the scooter version of an automobile. An especially original feature was its FRP body panels. FRP is a plastic reinforced with polyester and glass fiber, and at that time it was a brand-new material. The first vehicle to use it had been the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, of which only about three hundred were produced, and mass-production techniques using this material were still under development, even in the United States.
One member of the team in charge of the FRP body panels was Shozo Tsuchida (now Vice President of TS Tech Co., Ltd.), who had just joined the company a year before. Tsuchida, who had majored in chemistry in college, had suddenly been singled out:
"Of course, it was Mr. Honda who decided to use such a new material. He had had his eye on plastics for a long time. And, of course, this was a first in Japan, and the material had to be imported from the U.S. We partly made up the production engineering ourselves in the process of doing it.
"This involved one difficult job after another. When we removed the material from the mold, it was full of pinholes. It was also pitted and bumpy. When we polished it, the glass fibers would shoot out and stick in our skin. When we tried painting it, the pigments used on steel plate were useless. Mr. Honda would say, ‘Of seeing and listening and trying, the most important is trying.’ We experienced the full impact of his practical philosophy, which he had developed by the sweat of his brow in his efforts at improvement."
In July of the previous year, however, the Korean War had come to a standstill with the signing of a ceasefire accord, and the temporary rush in demand from the war was over. The boom in textiles and in mining and metals gradually turned into a slump by autumn, so that 1954 became a year of all-around recession.
However, Honda had gone public with its stock in January, and over-the-counter trading in Honda began at the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Although business everywhere was bad, the company felt that it would continue making good progress this year as well. During the period from February 1953 to February 1954, the books showed that total sales had approximately tripled from the previous fiscal year.