Tribute to Soichiro Honda

Japanese automobile pioneer engineer, industrialist, and founder of the Honda Motor Company, Soichiro Honda was born November 17, 1906 . In 1937, Honda founded Tōkai Seiki to produce piston rings for Toyota. During World War II, a US B-29 bomber attack destroyed Tōkai Seiki’s Yamashita plant in 1944 and the Itawa plant collapsed in the 1945 Mikawa earthquake. After the war, Honda sold the salvageable remains of the company to Toyota for ¥450,000 and used the proceeds to found the Honda Technical Research Institute in October 1946.In 1948 he started producing complete motorcycles as president of the Honda Motor Company. Honda turned the company into a billion-dollar multinational that produced the best-selling motorcycles in the world. Honda’s engineering and marketing skills resulted in Honda motorcycles outselling Triumph and Harley-Davidson in their respective home markets. In 1959 Honda Motorcycles opened its first dealership in the United States.

Honda remained president until his retirement in 1973, where he stayed on as director and was appointed “supreme adviser” in 1983. His status was such that People magazine placed him on their “25 Most Intriguing People of the Year” list for 1980, dubbing him “the Japanese Henry Ford.” In retirement Honda busied himself with work connected with the Honda Foundation. Even at his advanced age, Soichiro and his wife Sachi both held private pilot’s licenses. He also enjoyed skiing, hang-gliding and ballooning at 77, and he was a highly accomplished artist. He and Takeo Fujisawa made a pact never to force their own sons to join the company. His son, Hirotoshi Honda, was the founder and former CEO of Mugen Motorsports, a tuner for Honda vehicles who also created original racing vehicles.

Soichiro Honda died on August 5, 1991 of liver failure. He was posthumously appointed a Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun. Howevr the company he founded has gone from strength to strength and were the first Japanese automobile manufacturer to release a dedicated luxury brand, Acura in 1986. Today Honda are primarily known as a manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles and have been the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer since 1959, as well as the world’s largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines measured by volume, producing more than 14 million internal combustion engines each year. Aside from their core automobile and motorcycle businesses, Honda also manufactures garden equipment, marine engines, personal watercraft and power generators, amongst others. Since 1986, Honda has been involved with artificial intelligence/robotics research and released their ASIMO robot in 2000. They have also ventured into aerospace with the establishment of GE Honda Aero Engines in 2004 and the Honda HA-420 HondaJet, scheduled to be released in 2012.

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