|Putting the Customer First (1953)
|In April, the Cub FII-Type was launched with a 60 cc capacity that met the prevailing license requirements. In August, the Benly J-Type came out. This had an integrated engine and was a full-fledged 4-stroke motorcycle. Because it was conceived as a practical, low-cost and easy-to-use machine it was called Benly (from the Japanese word benri meaning convenient) to contrast with the Dream. It was Honda who christened the new product.
Yoshiro Harada, who experienced the development of the Benly as a member of the engineering design team, has this to say about it:
A 4-stroke machine with an integrated engine was a new idea. Other makers had brought out quite a few 4-stroke bikes but most bikes were still 2-stroke. We chose a more modern frame than the Dream E-Type, with a pressed-steel backbone which is more suited to mass-production. The pressed frame came in two parts which fitted together like a sandwich and were then welded together; it was modeled on a German bike. From the mass-production point of view, German bikes were more advanced than British ones and a lot of them had this type of frame. The Benly was directly based on the NSU Fox, but it certainly didnt slavishly copy its appearance. We developed a see-saw type swing arm for it, by extending forward the swing arms from the rear suspension and mounting the engine on them instead of fixing it to the frame. The idea was to make the bike more comfortable by stopping the engine vibration from being transferred to the rider. This was pretty successful, but there were some problems. When the rear wheel went up and down, because of the see-saw system the engine went up and down as well. On a bumpy road the carburetor would shake, fuel would come bubbling out and the engine wouldnt work well. If you banged something heavy down on the luggage rack the rear tire would hit the rear fender. Although we aimed at the ideal of 120% quality, it was no good and the first version of the Benly wasnt a success. But we learned from our mistakes and made improvements until at last the Benly earned a reputation as the best practical bike around.
May 1953 saw the delivery to the Shirako Plant of the first consignment of the eagerly-awaited machine tools. The quality improvement systems essential to Hondas plans for 120% excellence were gradually put in place.
In July the Saitama Labor Union was formed at the Shirako Plant, the forerunner of the Honda Motor Workers Union. In November, a pay structure was worked out and the company implemented its system of lifetime employment. In December, Honda carried out its fourth capital increase, bringing the companys capitalization to ¥60 million, and work started on the construction of Hamamatsu Factory (the Aoi Plant).
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