It's hard to believe, but it's been 50 years since Americans first saw a Honda on these shores. Way back in 1959, Honda opened its first storefront office in Los Angeles with just six employees, and started selling the Honda 50 motorbike. Skip forward to 2009 and American Honda now employs more than 25,000 workers directly, and some 100,000 indirectly at authorized Honda automobile, motorcycle and power-equipment dealerships throughout the United States. That doesn't even take into account the tens of thousands employed by nearly 600 U.S. Honda parts suppliers.
To help celebrate their golden anniversary stateside, the company had a small car and bike show at their U.S. HQ in Torrance, California. We dropped in for a bit and took a bunch of photos. Although there were far more bikes than cars, it was a still a fun outing. On the car side there were a smattering of S2000s, a couple of first-gen Insights, an NSX, a couple of early CRXes, a bunch of Civics, and even a few show cars. Our favorites had to be the Side-by-Side formula car and the 600 coupe right next to it.
On the bike side there was everything from a Trail 70 to the 2004 NAS concept. The little ZB50 even displayed a speeding ticket showing it clocked at 60 mph! Our favorites were the turbocharged CBR1000XX Blackbird and the 1970 Daytona-winning CR750. We've amassed a huge gallery and pasted in the press release after the jump. Click away and enjoy 50 years of American Honda.
Photos copyright ©2009 Frank Filipponio / Weblogs, Inc.
Honda Commemorates 50 Years of Innovation in America
Honda (NYSE: HMC) today marked its first 50 years in America, commemorating the establishment of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., in a small Los Angeles storefront on June 11, 1959. Honda associates observed the occasion with a brief ceremony at the company's Torrance, Calif. headquarters.
"On behalf of the tens of thousands of Honda associates in America, past and present, we offer our deepest thanks to our customers for placing their trust in Honda over the past 50 years," said American Honda President & CEO Tetsuo Iwamura. "Today, in the face of new challenges, including the preservation of our environment, we renew our commitment to exceed the expectations of our customers and society."
Starting in 1959, with the fuel-efficient Honda 50 motorcycle, to the newly launched 2010 Honda Insight gas-electric hybrid vehicle, Honda has introduced new technologies and business strategies that have shaped the industry and the growth of Honda, including:
- First automaker to meet U.S. Clean Air Act without a catalytic converter - Civic CVCC (1974)
- First vehicle to top U.S. EPA list of most fuel efficient cars - Civic (1977)
- First Japanese automaker to build motorcycles (1979) and automobiles (1982) in America - Marysville, Ohio*
- First Japanese automaker to establish a luxury automobile brand -- Acura (1986)
- First mass produced gas electric hybrid car introduced in America -- Insight (1999)
- First government-certified hydrogen fuel cell vehicle -- FCX (2002)
Honda operates 10 U.S. manufacturing plants with two new plants under construction, along with 14 R&D facilities and more than 12 regional sales, parts and service, and finance offices around the country. The company's network of U.S. parts suppliers comprises 545 companies in 34 states with annual purchases exceeding $17.5 billion in 2008.
Honda History in America
American Honda was the first overseas subsidiary of Honda Motor Co., Ltd., established eleven years after HMC's inception as a small motorcycle manufacturer in Japan. Honda entered the U.S. market in 1959 with the step-through Honda 50 motorcycle and helped spur the dramatic growth of the U.S. motorcycle market, as it became the best-selling brand in America.
The introduction of the fuel-efficient Civic in 1973 paved the way for Honda's entry into the U.S. auto industry. As America faced the first oil crisis in 1973 and then the U.S. Clean Air Act tightened air emissions standards in 1975, Civic became both the first automobile to meet the Clean Air Act without the need for a catalytic converter and was ranked number one on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's first list of America's most fuel efficient cars (1977).
Based on its longstanding commitment to develop and build products close to the customer, Honda established research and development operations in America in 1975, and U.S. manufacturing in 1979, starting with production of motorcycles in Marysville, Ohio. Honda became the first Japanese automaker to build cars in America with the start of Accord production at the Marysville Auto Plant in November 1982. In May 2009, Honda reached the 15 million unit milestone in U.S. automobile production.
In 1986, the company expanded into the luxury automobile market with the creation of the Acura brand, the first luxury nameplate from a Japanese automaker. Acura earned a top rating in J.D. Power and Associates' Customer Satisfaction Index for four consecutive years (1986-1989).
In the 1990s, Honda introduced the U.S. automobile industry's first low-emissions vehicles, meeting challenging new emissions requirements in California while also enhancing fuel efficiency. In 1999, Honda introduced America's first mass production hybrid vehicle, the Insight, followed in 2002 by the Honda FCX, the first fuel cell vehicle certified by the U.S. government for daily use and the first to be placed in the hands of an individual consumer.
In 2008, the company began leasing its next-generation FCX Clarity fuel cell sedan, the industry's most advanced zero-emissions vehicle. In March 2009 Honda introduced the 2010 Honda Insight, America's most affordable hybrid, with plans to launch another all-new hybrid within the next several years based on the company's sporty CR-Z hybrid concept vehicle.
"Looking to the future, we are committed to advancing Honda's legacy of environmental leadership to help address the twin challenges of global climate change and energy sustainability," said Iwamura. "Along with a renewed focus on quality, we begin our next fifty years by accelerating our efforts to develop and deploy new technologies that put Honda at the forefront of this global challenge, to create a cleaner and more sustainable future for generations to come."
*using domestic and globally sourced parts