The credit for creating a worldwide craze for motorcycle goes to Japan – especially to the Japanese engineer named Soichiro Honda (see photo). Just as the scooter was innovated as an affordable vehicle for the common man in postwar Europe, Honda concentrated on the motorcycle. He inspired Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Suzuki to follow him in this field.
Soichiro Honda was an industrialist and a Japanese engineer. He is credited for creating a worldwide craze for motorcycles, in 1948, Honda Motor Co. Ltd was established, which experienced an expansion from manufacturing wooden shack bicycle motors to a multinational automobile and motorcycle manufacturer.
Soichiro Honda was born and raised in Komyo village on November 17, 1906. As a young kid, Sochiro spent his childhood helping his father, Gihei, a blacksmith, with repairing bicycles. While he was a toddler, Soichiro was thrilled when he saw the first car that he had seen in his village. Later, he was often recorded saying that he still remembers the smell of the oil it gave off and will probably never forget it. Then, Soichiro once borrowed one of the bicycles owned by his father to check out a demonstration of an airplane by pilot Art Smith. This was a huge turning point for Soichiro. Witnessing the demonstration made him permanently fall in love with invention and machinery.
When he was 15, Soichiro left home and headed towards Tokyo to look for some work. At the time, he did not possess any formal education. However, he was still able to find an apprenticeship at a garage in 1922. He worked there for six years and, after some hesitation, left the workshop and came back home to start his own auto repair business in 1928. Soichiro was only 22 at the time.
Development of Honda Motor Co. Ltd
At the end of the Second World War, a large stock of two-stroke engines made for the use in various naval craft and submarines was laying idle unused. Soichiro Honda purchased these engines for the price of scrap. Thereafter making bicycles on stronger frames in his workshop and fitting two-stroke engines, he converted them into motorcycles. From such a small beginning, Honda Motor Company’s multinational business commenced.
In 1937, Honda founded Tokai Seiki that produced piston rings for Toyota. During World War II, an attack from a US bomber destroyed Tokai Seiki’s Yamashita plant in 1944, whereas the Iwata plant collapsed due to the 1945 Mikawa earthquake. After the mishap, Soichiro sold the remains of the company to Toyota and used the funds to develop a Technical Research Institute.
By 1948, Soichiro was developing a proper motorized bicycle. It was sold until 1951 and featured the first mass-produced engine designed by Honda. The Type D engine introduced in 1949 was the real deal as it consisted of a 2-stroke, 98 CC, three hp engine. This was a huge milestone in Soichiro’s career and went on to become more of an icon in the coming years.
Later down the road, Soichiro reconnected with his friend, whom he had known while he supplied piston rings. Fujisawa was hired by Honda in 1949 and was given the responsibility of handling the financial side of the company. The year 1959 saw Honda opening the very first showroom in the United States. Soichiro Honda’s vision and passion led him to create the best motorbikes at the time. Not only did the company become a billion-dollar enterprise, but it also outsold the likes of Harley-Davidson and Triumph, all due to the excellent display of engineering and marketing skills by Honda.
Soichiro Honda remained president of the company until his retirement in 1973. In 1980, he was placed in Peoples magazine amongst “25 Most Intriguing People of the Year”. Furthermore, Honda got himself involved in Honda’s foundation to keep himself busy post-retirement.
Today, Soichiro Honda is remembered as an individual who surprised the world with his dream converted into reality. Soichiro was a determined personality whose passion did not see any boundaries. While Honda achieved tremendous success and popularity within a few years, his legacy lives on. Every Honda motorbike you see on the road today is exactly what Honda himself had once envisioned.