In this second installment of the “Changing the Air for the Road” series, Mexico Automotive Review presents the history of Honda Motor Company. This company emerged from the ashes of World War II to become one of Japan’s Big Four motorcycle makers and one of the most important Japanese automakers.


By Rikita (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

After the government took control of his first manufacturing venture, Tokai Seiki Heavy Industries, during World War II and after the destruction of the company’s plants in Yamashita and Itawa, Soichiro Honda founded the direct parent company of Honda Motor Company: Honda Technical Research Institute in 1946.

Seeing the need for a solution to the deteriorated transportation conditions of post-war Japan, Honda had the idea of adding a small auxiliary engine to a bicycle and developed a prototype. It would take three years for Honda to develop its first motorcycle, dubbed the D-Type. Two years later, Honda Technical Research Institute would become Honda Motor Company.

Not only was this motorcycle an instant success in Japan but according to a 1956 magazine, the implementation of mass-production techniques in Honda’s lines enabled the company to increase its production from a total of 876 units in 1950 to 700 units monthly in 1951. Three years later Honda delivered its first scooter, the Juno-K-Type, and the company started competing in international races such as Isle of Man TT.

By OSX (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A few years later, in 1962, and because of a new law that would otherwise prevent new automakers from entering the market, Honda Motor Company made the decision to start producing cars, creating the T360 mini truck and the S360/S500 sports car. Vehicle production and engineering development continued, taking Honda to the F1 championship in 1964.

By 1972, Honda introduced one of its most iconic products: the Honda Civic. The vehicle was designed to meet the needs of cities and citizens around the world. It was “a utilitarian and minimalistic car that provided an optimal blend size, performance and economy,” as Hiroshi Kizawa (part of the Civic development team) said. One year later and largely due to the oil crisis, Honda Motor Company developed a more fuel-efficient, cleaner and cheaper family car: the Honda Accord.

Photo by Margaret CC 2.0

In the more than 70 years since the creation of Honda Technical Research Institute, Honda has introduced a variety of innovative vehicles, components and features to the market such as a traceability system for airbags in 1987, the world’s first automotive navigation system in 1981, four-wheel steering systems (4WS) in 1986 and the VTEC system for engines. Many of these have now become commonplace in the global automotive industry.


Check out the history of Kawasaki in the first part of our Changing the Air for the Road series or check out how F1 technology eventually makes it to conventional commercial cars here.

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