Honda Motor Co., Ltd., major manufacturer of automobiles and the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world. The company also manufactures power equipment, such as lawn mowers, snow blowers, outboard motors, and portable generators. Honda is based in Tokyo, Japan.
The founder of Honda, Soichiro Honda, was a mechanical engineer with a passion for automobile racing and motorbikes. He received his first patent in 1931 for metal wheel spokes. In 1937 he founded a company to make piston rings and sold his product to Toyota Motor Corporation until World War II began in 1939. Honda founded Honda Motor Co., Ltd., in 1948 to make motorcycles. Business executive Takeo Fujisawa was hired to manage the company while Honda focused on engineering. In 1950 Honda managed to double the horsepower of the conventional four-stroke engine, an astonishing feat of engineering that fueled the success of Honda motorcycles over the next two decades. Honda launched American Honda Motor Co., Inc., in 1959 and concentrated on creating a market for motorcycles among the middle-class population in the United States.
In the early 1960s the company produced its first automobiles and trucks. With the introduction of the Honda Civic automobile in 1972 the company quickly became a force in the international market. Civic sales surpassed 1 million vehicles in 1976, and that same year Honda introduced the higher-priced Accord. The Accord became one of the best-selling cars in the United States.
In the 1980s Honda launched its Acura division to produce luxury cars. By 1990 Honda was the third largest Japanese automaker, behind Toyota and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. But renewed competition from American automakers and the sudden popularity of sport utility vehicles—a niche that Honda overlooked—combined to bring sales down.
The company soon began a thorough reorganization, cutting costs and shifting a large portion of its production facilities to North America. Sales of the Civic and Accord rebounded and the company’s innovative new line of small sport utility vehicles, such as the Odyssey and the StepWGN, became runaway bestsellers in Japan. Increased sales of Honda motorcycles, particularly in China, also improved profits.
In 2000 Honda made a hybrid vehicle, the Insight, available for sale in North America. The Insight operates much as a conventional car does but runs on a combination gasoline-electric motor. The hybrid motor gets double the fuel economy of gasoline-powered cars and dramatically cuts toxic emissions.
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