Honda started as the dream of Soichiro Honda who found himself at a young age interested in automobiles. This interest got him a job at the Art Shokai garage where he would work and tune cars and then race them. 1937 found him partnering with Kato Shichiro to start making piston rings in the garage he worked at. It took some effort, and saw many failures, but eventually his hard work and dedication paid off when Toyota approached him with a contract to supply piston rings. Sadly, the contract would be lost due to poor quality. This didn’t stop him though, looking to turn defeat into victory, Honda attended engineering school and visited the different factories in Japan hoping to better educate himself to the quality control processes that Toyota used. He didn’t graduate, but by 1941, he was able to mass produce the piston rings and was deemed acceptable by Toyota. This was by using an automated process that even unskilled laborers could use.
The start of WWII gave Honda another setback. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry took control of his company and demoted him from president to senior managing director. This was after Toyota took a 40% stake in the company. Honda used his company to aid in the Japanese war effort, producing aircraft propellers. A US bomber would end up destroying his plant in 1944 and then his other plant was destroyed in the 1945 Mikawa earthquake. This mountain of disasters caused Honda to sell the remains of his company to Toyota. Not ready to give up yet, Honda used the money he got from the selling of his company to found the Honda Technical Research Institute in 1946. Only having a staff of 12 in a 172 square foot shack, they began to build and sell motorcycles. By 1964, Honda would be the world’s largest maker of motorcycles.
Since those early days as just a dream, Honda has become one of the most renowned car makers in the world. It has since those early days in Japan expanded to automobiles and across the ocean into the United States. It’s a company that has seen a fair share of devastating set backs, including the tsunami of recent, but always finds a way to snatch victory back from the clutches of defeat. With that can-do attitude, it’s only going to be incredible to see where Honda goes next.
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