The Honda Company was founded by Soichiro Honda. Initially, he made mass-produced piston rings, which he sold to, amongst others buyers, Toyota. This first company taught him the importance of mass production and quality control. After the end of World War II, he started building motorcycles, and by 1959, Honda was the largest manufacturer in the world. Honda also excelled in engine production, and in this field the company also evolved into a majority supplier.
In 1963, the company rolled out their first four-wheeled vehicle, the commercial mini truck called the T360, beginning the process that ultimately led them to becoming one of the top 10 car producers in the world. By the 1980s, Honda was expanding their operations globally, and they opened offices in Tullamarine, Melbourne to service their long list of product lines sold in Australia as well as opening their first factory in America.
Developments in the 1960s included the Honda N360AT and LN360AT, with both sporting new automatic gearboxes. More technological developments came in 1973 with the clean burning diesel CVCC engine. This was to have a good effect on the design of cleaner running engines that would pay dividends in the future.
The 1970s continued to be glory years for Honda with the marketing of two of their classic cars, the Civic and the Accord, followed later on by the Prelude. Until a major reevaluation of the Honda range in the 1990s, these three were to be the predominant cars the company produced.
Honda has gone on to produce a number of highly successful car and motorbike models, and it is a champion in researching alternative technologies and fuel sources. Some of the first of their new technologies were bikes that ran on pine tree extract, as petrol was in short supply. Since then Honda have pioneered cars that run on flexible fuel sources like hydrous ethanol, compressed natural gas, electricity, and hydrogen.
Honda is a diverse and eclectic company with many different product lines, from its known cars, motorbikes, and engines, to garden machinery and baby pushchairs. They have also experienced a great deal of success in both motorcycle and motorcar racing, winning trophies and awards in both.
Honda’s first vehicle, the T360, a mini pickup truck, ran off the production line in 1963. It was classified as a Kei car and was eligible for a lower tax rate. Just two months later that same year, Honda launched its first car, the S500 sports car. Again, this vehicle benefited from the company’s knowledge of motorcycle technology.
Two years later in 1965, Honda released the L700, a two-door delivery van. This was followed by the Honda 1300, a noticeably quieter car that featured a dry sump construction and an air-cooled SOHC aluminium engine. The N360 Honda Scamp, a small family saloon, came next, and then the later part of the 1960s saw the launch of the Z360, LN360 van, N600 saloon, and Z600 coupe.
Two out of the big three 1970s Honda cars, the Civic and Accord, are still in production today, with the Civic now in its ninth generation. Unfortunately, the Prelude's reign came to an end in 2001. The 1980s saw the City, Legend, and Jazz/Fit Aria enter the line-up, and Honda also launched Acura, their luxury brand, in 1986. Their expansion continued even further with the range adding the Honda Life, Inspire, and CR-V over the 1990s.
The turn of the millennium experienced an explosion of new Honda cars with such diversity as the Pilot, CR-Z hybrid/electric cars, Crosstour, Stream, Brio, and Elysion mini van.
Honda has for many years had a fierce rivalry with their Japanese neighbours, especially Nissan and Toyota. There have always been parallels drawn between Honda cars and the Toyota Corolla and Camry vehicles. They have also experienced competition from producers like Ford, Chevrolet, and Audi.
Popular Honda cars like the Jazz find they have VW’s Golf, the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, and Chevy Aveo all pitching in the same market. The notorious Civic has been matched along many over the years, with the Vauxhall Astra, Mazda 3, and Ford Focus being rival models.
The success of Honda has always been built on its innovative technology, excellent build quality, and diversity. Honda from the very start has looked at alternative fuel sources. The petrol crisis of the 1970s, and more recently the burst of the Japanese bubble, the world economic crash, and the modern escalation in petrol costs have fueled Honda’s desire to explore other resources.