Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959

An Unknown Market - a New Challenge

Establishing American Honda Motor Co. / 1959

A Wind from the West, Blowing Across the American Landscape

Kawashima relocated to his L.A. post in June 1959. His first task was to look for an office property that could serve as American Honda's official business location. After shopping around, Kawashima decided to buy a former photo studio on West Pico Boulevard using some of his admittedly limited funds.

"I felt that we had to put down roots and establish our own building," recalled Kawashima. "So I thought, ‘Let's not rent for the time being. Why not just buy the building?' It might have seemed reckless, but I didn't feel that I was acting out of desperation. Actually, I was dreaming of a rosy future! Oh, I think the building must have cost about $100,000, but that left us with only $20,000 or $30,000 of our operating funds. Even the bank told me, ‘You've got a lot of guts.'"

The local reaction to American Honda's presence in the American motorcycle industry was decidedly down. "There is no way that Japan, having lost the war, could produce much of a product," opinion makers would say. "It won't be easy for them to bring something here and sell it." Absolutely no one predicted any sort of success for American Honda.

The American motorcycle industry was then selling 50,000 to 60,000 units annually. It was a market just one-tenth that of Japan's, yet several competitors were fighting it out for a share of the territory. Market expansion simply hadn't yet been considered since, in the U.S., the car was the generally accepted mode of transportation.

Motorcycles were vehicles for outdoorsmen, racing enthusiasts and hotrodders. Most of the motorcycles sold in the market were large, too, with engines displacing at least 500 cc. What's more, the motorcycle had an evil image heavily influenced by outlaws in black bomber jackets, commonly called "Hell's Angels" in reference to the biker society of the same name. Motorcycles had a bad reputation in the American community, and were not embraced by common consumers.

Likewise, the motorcycle industry was thought of as being dark and dirty. Most motorcycle dealerships were dark inside, with oil stains on the floors. This was not altogether inaccurate, since it was common to find oil pans on the sales floor, there to catch the fluid as it dripped from the bikes on display. The atmosphere could be far from inviting.

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
  2. Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973Company Leaders Honda and Fujisawa Retire; Kawashima Assumes Presidency / 1973
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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