The Forerunner of Family Bikes
The motorcycle market encountered a critical deadlock in the early 1970s. The popularity of light, high-economy cars was growing, and the activities of motorcycle gangs was hurting the motorcycle's once-sterling image as a fun, convenient means oftransportation. Moreover, the "three don'ts" movement that had proliferated among Japanese high-school students was a negative influence. Consequently, sales of motorcycles went into a sharp decline.
Even the venerated Super Cub, the star of a worldwide motorcycle boom, found itself in a slump some fifteen years after its release. As original owners grew older, and with the bike failing to attract members of the younger generation, the Super Cub was unable to maintain or increase its market.
The people at Honda were deeply concerned about the situation: If no action was taken, the motorcycle market would shrink even more, causing serious damage to the company. To survive in the market, they were forced to develop a product that could foster new demand by replacing the Super Cub as Honda's mainstay model.
However, something would indeed be done, and soon. Therefore, it was Isamu Goto - who was involved in the development of automatic transmissions at the Wako R&D Center - who received a sudden transfer from his work in cars to the company's Motorcycle Division.
"I can't even ride a motorcycle," said Goto reluctantly to Takashi Kume, the managing director from Honda Motor, upon being told the news.
He was surprised by Kume, who in his reply said, "But you see, that‘s why you're so right for this job."
Goto quickly learned that what Kume wanted was to see the motorcycle market through the eyes of someone who was not a motorcycle enthusiast - someone who did not know anything about motorcycles - in order to gain a foothold in the development of bikes that would be welcomed by the general public as well as enthusiasts. Therefore, Goto moved to the Asaka R&D Center, which had recently been established as a separate R&D facility for motorcycles.
Goto, however doubtful he may have been, was to begin with the strong support of three colleagues. All were brilliant engineers, being experts in the frame construction, engine design, and styling. Soon, a development team was formed, and the foursome began working on a new concept.