"Quality Products have no International Boundaries"(1956)

<< 1. In 1956, Messrs. Honda and Fujisawa traveled to Europe together....
<< 2. Development of the clutch mechanism started at the same time as engine development,...
<< 3. Underlying the Super Cub's success was the choice of 17-inch tires....
<< 4. Fujisawa again skillfully resorted to the direct mail strategy on the Super Cub....
 


Fujisawa again skillfully resorted to the direct mail strategy on the Super Cub. To build a sales network, this time he approached people in businesses unrelated to either motorcycles or bicycles to take part. These were people, for instance, like lumber merchants, dry grocers, mushroom growers, and other dissimilar businesses. This unprecedented concept was typical of Fujisawa. Kawashima explained:

"Mr. Fujisawa's philosophy was: 'Selling motorcycles is not a business you direct to a large number of unspecified people. It's a business that has to provide after-sale service. Let people who have deep roots in an area sell bikes there.' You have to realize, though, that calling for participation by people from totally dissimilar lines of business was possible only because it was Mr. Fujisawa doing it. Having obtained high productivity in the Super Cub, he eagerly took on the challenge of building 'our own sales network.' He thus constructed the foundation for Honda's present sales network.

"For example, there was a certain major Honda agent who had held the extremely broad sales territory of the entire Kanto District from an earlier time. He had this agent return the sales rights in that territory, and limit the agency to the Tokyo area alone. The rest of that former territory was then reorganized under Honda's own direct sales network. One of the wonderful things about the Super Cub is that it gave Mr. Fujisawa the power to do this."

Approximately 600 dealers were selected from a pool of 3,500 applicants. The plan called for monthly sales of 30,000 units through a nationwide network of 1,500 dealers.

Fujisawa was nicknamed the "Advertising Chief."

"When it came to promotion and advertising, we had our mouths closed and our hands tied. That was like a No Fishing area," said Kawashima, laughing. "Mr. Fujisawa handled it all. But the methods in all aspects of this followed the Fujisawa style, and his ideas were unconventional. He was an early practitioner of pre-sales advertising, what we call teasers today, and he developed the use of full-page, fifteen-column spreads for newspaper advertising. These were advertising strategies that made the other companies really pay attention. On this subject, I suspect that people outside Honda might have more information than people here in the company."

Around this time, Fujisawa had collected around him a group of young people from outside the company whom he used as a kind of brain trust. Tsugio Ogata, now president of Tokyo Graphic Designers, said:

"It was information gathering. There was a great range and variety, with musicians, stockbrokers, and advertising designers like me. I was working in the advertising division of the Takashimaya Department Store. At night, he would give us plenty to drink, and he would listen to our talk. Then, eventually, he started saying, 'We're going to place an ad like this. Tell me what you think.' One of the ads for the Super Cub turned out to be practically a copy of an ad from another country. He told me, 'I'm not a professional at this, and I can't keep track to that extent. I don't want to be embarrassed like this again, so you go independent and handle Honda's advertising design.' So I got drawn in. This was soon after the Super Cub hit the market.

Mr. Fujisawa was the Super Director. He'd give me a concept and say let's go with something like this. I'd work very hard to figure out what it meant and turn it into an advertisement. One day he said, 'The president says the Super Cub will be good for noodle shops. Let's do something with that theme.' What came out of that was the advertisement with the line, 'The noodles are fine, too, mom.' He was very pleased with the results. He was very happy about the results, and told me, 'Hey, after that ad came out, a lot of our bikes were sold to noodle shops.' However, it was hard work producing a draft that he would like. I'd draw dozens and he still wasn't satisfied. He would shout at me and harass me: 'You don't understand what I'm saying!' Even now, I often think that it's thanks to him, and I'm flattering myself, now that I have become capable of designing good advertisements."

The reaction of the market was a sharp rise, even before sales had started. Applications from prospective dealers kept coming in larger numbers. There were even some eager people who would show up at the company, cash advances in hand, hoping that would help them obtain even a single Super Cub. This was reminiscent of the scenes that took place with the old Cub F-Type. Already, however, it was clear that this was more than just a short-lived fad.

The Honda Engine Development: A Thirty-Year History contains this statement:

"From the time of mass production start-up at the Saitama Factory and until it was transferred to the Suzuka Factory in 1960, monthly production of the Super Cub showed virtually straight-line upward growth. It reached 27,000 units a month."

With the Super Cub, this time Honda had indeed fully realized the "Three Joys."

Some years later, the Super Cub would also demonstrate that "good products know no national boundaries." The main actor in American Honda Motor Co.'s success story would turn out to be the Super Cub.

In the forty-year period since it was first introduced, the Super Cub has been in continuous production without any change in its basic form. As of the end of January 1999, cumulative global production of that model exceeded 27,460,000 units, and nobody knows how far into the future this record will extend. As Kimio Shinmura said:

"Actually, in the early 1970s, there was some talk of doing a full model change. That was when I became managing director of the R&D Center. I said, okay, it looks like a tough job so I'll handle it. I traveled all over the world, and for about a year I went over possibilities with Mikihiro Kohyama, a body man, only to reject them one after another. No, it took longer than that, and whatever design we tried, we couldn't surpass what we already had. We just didn't have it in us. There wouldn't be anything to gain by a model change. The conclusion I reached was to say, 'Mr. Super Cub, I'm sorry I was such a smart aleck,' and give my best salute," he said, laughing. "That bike is like the crystallization of the Old Man's feelings when he was at the peak of his powers. We'd been mistaken to even consider making a model change in the first place."

When the Super Cub was announced in July, Honda carried out its seventh capital increase. The company's capitalization reached ¥720 million.
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