Honda Comes to America
In the early 1960's Soichiro established Honda in Los Angeles and began looking for dealers to sell his motorcycles. Southern California has the perfect year-round climate for riding and an ideal marketplace for the "Honda 50." It sold for $250 and was a top-seller. Honda’s popularity was on the rise, even attracting the talents of Brian Wilson and Mike Love of the Beach Boys, who wrote and recorded a song called, "Little Honda," under the assumed name of the Hondells.
From the mid-’60 through the ‘70s, Honda was releasing some beautiful motorcycles that became well known for their quality and robust, smooth-running, high-tech engines. Perhaps the pinnacle of performance was the Honda 750, four-cylinder engine that became known as the first superbike. Enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike were captivated by the quality of Honda products, helping to win people over when the company started releasing cars.
Honda Launches Autos and Settles in Ohio
In the United States, the ‘60s was the decade of the muscle car, so performance and fast speeds were what attracted both the youth market and older buyers alike. In 1970 Honda released a vehicle in the US that was very reasonably priced, however, it was small, noisy, and the construction didn't compare to American cars.
Honda management did market surveys for feedback from its customers in Japan and the US. The results drove engineers to produce a car far superior to their initial offerings. Development was concurrent with fuel-efficiency and emissions mandates from both governments. Honda released a CVCC engine met the standards sans a catalytic converter and launched the Civic. While smaller and slower than American cars a new era of consciousness was emerging stimulated by the oil embargo, and by the end of the '70s the Civic earned the Top Car rating on the EPA's new list of fuel-efficient automobiles at 40 mpg.
In response to strong demand for the Civic, Honda opened up a research and development facility in Gardena, CA, to study the US car market. Combining their research and engineering skills, the Accord Hatchback was launched in 1976 with unique styling. Their affordability, excellent fuel economy, and low cost of insurance added the lure for college students, women, and younger buyers.
In 1979 tariffs on Japanese imports drove Honda to build manufacturing plants in Ohio. The first, in Marysville, built CR250M motorcycles. The company trained American workers to their Kaizen philosophy to make quality products. The model proved successful and in 1982 Honda built the second facility in Ohio to produce the Accord, one of the top ten best-selling cars of all time. In 1985 they opened a third plant in Anna, Ohio, to build motorcycle engines and quickly expanded into automobile engines.
With all these plants in Ohio, it only made sense to establish a new R&D facility in the state for the engineering of automobiles, motorcycles, and a plethora of other power equipment. In 1986 Honda launched their upscale line of cars, the Acura brand was born with the Integra Sport Sedan and the Legend. Not long after, in 1988, the Honda Accord became the first Japanese car built in the US to be exported back to Japan. Another facility was founded in East Liberty, Ohio to build the Civic models, one of the top six best-selling models of all-time.
In 2013 Honda became the first Japanese auto manufacturer to be a net exporter from the US, exporting 108,705 vehicles while importing only 88,357.