Honda''s founder, Soichiro Honda, was greatly interested in automobiles from a very young age. He worked as a mechanic at a Japanese tuning shop, Art Shokai, where he tuned cars and entered them in races. A self-taught engineer, he later worked on a piston design which he hoped to sell to Toyota. The first drafts of his design were rejected but Soichiro worked painstakingly to perfect the design, even going back to school and pawning his wife''s jewellery for collateral. Eventually, he won a contract with Toyota and built a factory to construct pistons for them, which unfortunately was destroyed in an earthquake. Due to a gas shortage during World War II, Honda was unable to use his car, but his novel idea of attaching a small engine to his bicycle attracted much curiosity. He then established the Honda Technical Research Institute in Hamamatsu, Japan, to develop and produce small 2-cycle motorbike engines. Calling upon 18,000 bicycle shop owners across Japan to take part in revitalizing a nation torn apart by war, Soichiro received enough capital to engineer his first motorcycle, the Honda Cub. This marked the beginning of Honda Motor Company, which went on to be the world''s largest manufacturer of motorcycles by 1964. Interestingly, ''Honda'' in Japanese, literally means ''root field'' or ''original field.''
The first production automobile from Honda was the T360 mini pick-up truck which was powered by a small 356 cc straight-4 gasoline engine. The first production car from Honda was the S500 sports car and its chain driven rear wheels point to Honda''s motorcycle origins. Today, Honda Automobiles is one of the Big Asian Four (with Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai). Honda is headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Japan. Their shares trade on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange, as well as exchanges in Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Kyoto, Fukuoka, London, Paris and Switzerland.
The company has assembly plants around the globe. These plants are located at China, United States, Pakistan, Canada, England, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, New Zealand, Indonesia, India, Thailand, and Turkey. In 2001, Honda surpassed Nissan, to become the second-largest Japanese automobile manufacturer. In August 2008, Honda surpassed Chrysler as the fourth largest automobile manufacturer in the United States. Honda is the sixth largest automobile manufacturer in the world.
Honda''s global lineup consists of the Fit (Jazz), Civic, Accord, Insight, CR-V, and Odyssey. An early proponent of developing vehicles to cater to different needs and markets worldwide, Honda''s lineup varies by country and features vehicles exclusive to that region. Honda was the first Japanese automobile manufacturer to release a dedicated luxury brand, Acura, in 1986. Aside from their core automobile and motorcycle businesses, Honda also manufactures garden equipment, marine engines, personal watercraft and power generators, amongst others. Since 1986, Honda has been involved with artificial intelligence/robotics research and released their ASIMO robot in 2000. They have also ventured into aerospace with the establishment of GE Honda Aero Engines in 2004 and the Honda HA-420 HondaJet, scheduled to be released in 2011. Honda spends about 5% of its revenues into R&D.
Honda also produces the Insight, a hybrid electric vehicle that competes with Toyota Prius. This car was first launched by Honda in late 1999 and it was the first commercial hybrid electric car sold in the US market. This car was launched just one month before the introduction of the Toyota Prius and initially sold for US $20,000.The first-generation Insight was produced from 2000 to 2006 and had a fuel economy of 70 miles per US gallon (3.4 L/100 km; 84 mpg) for the EPA''s highway rating, the most fuel-efficient mass-produced car at the time. Total global sales for the Insight amounted to only around 18,000 vehicles.
Honda introduced the second-generation Insight in its home nation of Japan in February 2009, and released it in other markets through 2009 and in the U.S. market in April 2009. At $19,800 as a five-door hatchback it will be the least expensive hybrid available in the U.S. Honda expects to sell 200,000 of the vehicles each year, with half of those sales in the United States.
Since 2002, Honda has also been selling the Honda Civic Hybrid (2003 model) in the U.S. market. It was followed by the Honda Accord Hybrid, offered in model years 2005 through 2007. Sales of the Honda CR-Z began in Japan in February 2010, becoming Honda''s third hybrid electric car in the market.
Honda Siel Cars India Ltd., (HSCI), established as a joint venture between Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Japan and Siel Limited, a Siddharth Shriram Group company, was formalized in December 1995. The aim was to present Honda’s latest passenger car models and technologies, to the Indian buyers. The company has invested Rs 1620 crores in the Greater Noida, U.P. plant and Rs 784 crores in Tapukara, Rajasthan, plant till date, in India.
HSCI’s first manufacturing unit was set up in Greater Noida, in 1997. This green-field project which boasts of an annual capacity of 100,000 units is spread across 150 acres of land. The company, later, went on to set up its second manufacturing facility in Tapukara, which is spread over 600 acres with an initial production capacity of 60,000 units per annum. This facility saw an investment of about Rs 1,000 crore. The first phase of this facility was inaugurated in September 2008.
The company’s product range includes various models such as Honda Jazz, Honda City, Honda Civic and Honda Accord which are produced at the Greater Noida facility with an indigenization level of 77%, 76%, 74% and 28% respectively. The CR-V is imported from Japan as Completely Built Units (CBU). Honda is renowned for bringing advanced design and technology to its models and is also known for its durable, reliable and fuel-efficient cars.