On this day, November 17 in the year 1906, one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the automotive industry was born in Shizuoka, Japan. His name was Soichiro Honda, the founder of a world class automotive company that bears his name.
Soichiro Honda was the eldest son of a blacksmith who owned a bicycle shop. After leaving higher elementary school at the age of 15, he joined an automobile servicing company called Tokyo Art Shokai as an apprentice. Soon, he acquired the necessary skill to repair motorcycles and automobiles. When his boss asked him to help in the design of a race car, he promptly joined the project team.
At the age of 21, Soichiro Honda opened a branch of Art Shokai in his hometown of Hamamatsu where he demonstrated his inventiveness. He made prototypes of automobiles, trucks and buses. In 1936, he founded Tokai Seiki Heavy Industry to manufacture automotive parts. To improve further his knowledge in his new endeavor, he enrolled at a local industrial institute. Soon, his company became a supplier of auto parts to Toyota. During World War II, the company was contracted as one of the largest suppliers of parts including aircraft parts for the Japanese military. However, all of his facilities were destroyed by Allied bombings and also by an earthquake.
In 1946, Soichiro established Honda Technical Research Institute. Two years later, he set up Honda Motors to mass produce motorized bicycle. In 1949, he produced the first true motorcycle. In 1952, he began exporting motorcycles to Taiwan, then to the Philippines and eventually to the United States. In 1959, American Honda Motor subsidiary was set up in Los Angeles. In 1963, Honda sold more motorcycles than other brands in the American market.
Soichiro Honda had his eyes on the car market but the government wanted him to merge with the more established car manufacturers instead. He refused. In 1961, Honda Motors was given the license to produce automobiles under the Specified Industry Promotion Bill. In the succeeding years, subsidiary companies were organized like Honda Finance and Honda Used Car sales to help promote growth and increase market share. In 1970, the company started exporting cars to the United States.
Honda Motors began producing motorcycles in the United States in 1979. In 1982, the company opened its automobile manufacturing plant in Ohio, the first among Japanese manufacturers to do so.
Soichiro Honda died of liver failure in 1991 at the age of 84. He had a son with his wife Sachi. Today, Honda Motors ranked #40 in the Fortune Global 500 2020 edition with revenues amounting to $137,332 and employing some 218,674 people worldwide.