Japanese automaker Honda began its days as a bike revolutionary and adapted to become one of the most versatile brands in the world. Today, Honda makes motorcycles, cars, SUVs, trucks, and more. But where did Honda begin? And when did the United States see its first Honda car?
Honda’s earliest days
Though the idea behind the brand was conceived years before, the Honda Motor Company was formally established in Japan in 1948. According to Honda, co-founders Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa hit the ground running in 1948, opening Honda Motor Company’s doors and debuting its first original design.
The “Dream” D-type motorcycle would show people right from the beginning that Honda is a force to be reckoned with, showcasing the founders’ unique, innovative engineering abilities. Founder Soichiro Honda once stated, “We only have one future, and it will be made of our dreams, if we have the courage to challenge convention.” And from its earliest days, challenge convention it did.
Making the leap to America’s shores
It wasn’t long before the ambitious Honda brand sought to expand its boundary-pushing designs. According to AutoNation Honda, the American Honda Motor Co., Inc. officially opened its doors on June 11, 1959; just 11 years after founders began a small dream in Japan. With just three employees, Honda chose Los Angeles, California as its “first overseas subsidiary of Honda Motor Co., Ltd.”
Less than a decade later, in 1968, Honda already sold more than 1 million motorcycles and revolutionized the industry as a whole. In 1969, Honda debuted its first four-cylinder motorcycle that would lead the way in sophisticated, road-ready bikes.
Again in 1969, Honda officially sells its first car in the United States. The Honda N600 sedan showcased the Japanese brand’s personality and design, following it with the Z600 coupe.
The well-known Civic was introduced in 1973, but in 1974, Honda kept momentum going in the innovation department, creating a brand new CVCC engine that makes the Civic the very “first vehicle to meet the strict emissions standards of the new U.S. Clear Air Act without the use of a catalytic converter.”
The Accord hatchback came shortly after in 1976 and was a big success from the start. With the success of the Accord, Honda skyrocketed into the running for top American brands.
Honda today: was the jump a success?
Surprisingly enough, Honda has done better in the United States than in Japan, where it originated. Honda expanded quicker in the U.S. than in Japan. Honda waited to enter the automobile market in Japan until after strong rivals had already emerged: Toyota and Nissan. And in 1990, Honda was selling two cars in the U.S. for every one sold in Japan.
From the beginning, Americans could not deny the quality of Honda motorcycles. But when Americans began to become more aware of the environment and the energy crisis of the 1970s began, people became drawn to lighter, more fuel-efficient cars. And Honda specialized in engineering the type of vehicle Americans wanted.
Today, Honda makes more vehicle models in the U.S. than any other brand, with a total of seven models. According to CNBC, out of the 15 most-American-made cars in 2019, Honda builds the majority. And in a recent study shown on The Simple Dollar, 54% of Americans believe that both Japanese brands Honda and Toyota are the most reliable car brands.
According to CNN Business, Honda began hiring its first workers for its first plant on U.S. soil in 1979. But in 2018, it had reached its 25-millionth car made, and it has no plans of slowing down now. Whether it’s innovation in fuel-efficiency, energy technology, or race-car speed, Honda seems to have no boundaries here in the U.S. Honda vehicles remain as some of America’s most-trusted.