It was October 1946, in Hamamatsu, Japan, when Soichiro Honda took over a factory wartime bombings had left in ruins; determined to succeed post war he established the Honda Technical Research Institute. Soichiro’s first attempt at manufacturing was the “rotary weaving machine”; then he tried his hand at mass-producing frosted glass windows. After failing to “take off”, and not one to give up, he next tried manufacturing woven bamboo roof panels. Then Soichiro came across a surplus of two-stroke motors and had an idea. With very little gasoline available for transportation, Soichiro decided to build motorbikes. Soichiro started adapting the small 2-cycle motorcycle engines to run on turpentine and attached them to cycle frames Hamamatsu factory workers built. The bikes were popular and soon sold out leading Soichiro to begin manufacturing his own engines; and the history of Honda began.
Drivers are sure to recognize Honda automobiles as among the highest quality vehicles on the road today. However, the history of Honda started long before the company made its first automobile. Company founder Soichiro Honda had always had an interest in automobiles and got his start at the Art Shokai garage as a mechanic working on race cars.
Using funding offered by a friend (Kato Shichiro) Honda started Tokai Seiki in 1937. This company crafted piston rings for the Toyota Company for a short period of time. In time Honda learned to mass produce engine rings for Toyota. During World War Two this company was placed under the control of the War Ministry. Following the destruction of one factory during the war and one more in 1945 due to the Mikawa earthquake, a new era in the history of Honda began with the construction of a motorized bicycle under the auspices of the name Honda Technical Research Institute.
The Honda Technical Research Institute was liquidated in 1949 and the resulting funds used to found Honda Motor Co. Ltd., a name that has become very well known on streets across America. During this early period the company focused on building motorcycles and by 1964 was one of the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturers.
Those early car models were introduced in October of 1963. By that time, Honda had been the world’s leading motorcycle manufacturer for more than a decade. It was natural that the early car and truck models featured rear-wheel chain drives, similar to the motorcycles Honda had been producing since the end of the Second World War. It would be another decade – a decade of many advances – before the first Hondas would be shipped to the United States and other international markets.
During the ensuing years Honda would continue to develop new lines of vehicles and expand their horizons. In 1973 Honda was ready to export its cars to the United States as the first Honda Civic was offered to buyers in the Denton, Frisco, and Lewisville areas. These highly fuel efficient cars were exactly what the American public needed as the energy crisis hit full swing and gas prices soared. In 1974 the Honda CVCC four stroke engine was only incredibly fuel efficient but the Civic became the first car to meet the new EPA Clean Air Act standards without the need for a catalytic converter.
By 1979 a new stage in the history of Honda was underway as they became the first Japanese automobile manufacturer to open a production facility in the U.S. 1982 saw the Accord being built at the brand new Marysville, Ohio manufacturing facility. In 1984 the Honda CRX-HF would be the first car in the world to reach an EPA rating of 50 mpg.
In 1986 Honda launched its Acura luxury car line, offering the sporty Integra and flagship Legend. These models were offered through 60 different dealerships across the U.S. Not satisfied with this, in 1988 Honda became the first American built automobile to be exported to Japan. The Honda Accord has the distinction of being the first car built by an international car maker to earn the distinction of being the best-selling car in the U.S.
These models were offered through 60 different dealerships across the U.S. Not satisfied with this, in 1988 Honda became the first American built automobile to be exported to Japan. The Honda Accord has the distinction of being the first car built by an international car maker to earn the distinction of being the best-selling car in the U.S.
Not content to rest on its laurels, in 1990 Honda launched the Acura NSX. This was the world’s first all-aluminum bodied automobile. It would also be the first to be fitted with the Variable Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) engine. The following year the Accord wagon would become the first vehicle in the history of Honda to be completely designed and built in the U.S. Mid-decade the Civic became the first car to meet the California Low-Emission Vehicle standards. Two years later the Accord met California’s Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle standards.
In 2001 the U.S. manufactured Civic Coupe became the first compact car to be given a full 5 star safety rating by the NTHSA (National Traffic Highway Safety Administration), making them one of the safest cars on the roads of Denton. 2002 saw the first Honda Civic Hybrid, a combination gas/electric car that achieved 70 mpg. In this same year the FCX was introduced as the first fuel cell powered vehicle to be certified for everyday use in the U.S. by the EPA.
Honda continues to be on the cutting edge, leading the way into the future in many fields. In October 2000, roughly 37 years after introducing their first cars, Honda introduced the ASIMO – Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility. The ASIMO is a humanoid robot designed to help people with mobility-related disabilities. Since its introduction, ASIMO has been widely used to promote math and science education and research.
Honda isn’t resting content with their cars, either. They have continuously been among world leaders in developing vehicles that use alternate fuel sources, from the first hybrid electric car available in the U.S. in 1999 to flex fuel in 2006 to hydrogen fuel cells in 2008 and the completely electric Fit EV in 2012. While the vehicle’s range of 82 miles limited its practicality to those with short commutes typical of those living in the city, a plug-in hybrid was introduced the next year that combined the green technology and economy of an electric with the practicality of a gasoline engine for longer trips.
Innovation continues to abound as Honda continues to investigate more ways to create hybrids and ultra-safe and fuel efficient vehicles. The Honda vehicles available at Honda of Denton are among the finest on the road today. While they may bear little resemblance to the first T360 produced in 1963, the same dedication to quality seen with this model can still be found in every car, truck, SUV, and van ever built in the history of Honda.