Founder of Honda Motors Dies at 84
TOKYO (AP) _ Soichiro Honda, an innovative mechanic whose motorcycle engine company became a leading global enterprise, died of liver failure today at a Tokyo hospital. He was 84.
Honda Motor Co., which he founded in 1946, now is Japan’s No. 3 car manufacturer. In the United States, where it began production in 1982, it ranks fourth, after the big three - General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
Company officials announced his death.
Honda had been top adviser to the company since he retired as president at age 67 in 1973, the company’s 25th anniversary under the Honda Motor name.
Born in 1906, the son of a blacksmith in Hamamatsu, central Japan, Honda started as a successful mechanic, founded a piston ring manufacturer while attending school and then started his present company, originally called Honda Technical Research Institute. It became Honda Motor Co. two years later.
Originally, it attached recycled engines to bicycles, a popular mode of transportation in the hard years that followed World War II.
His first motorcycle, called ″Dream,″ was introduced in 1949.
It wasn’t until 1957 that Honda entered the four-wheel vehicle market, nearly 30 years after Toyota and Nissan, now Japan’s top automakers. But Honda was about three years ahead of them in opening production in the United States.
Honda’s successful Civic model came out in 1972, along with the CVCC engine, the first to meet U.S. anti-pollution standards without a catalytic converter.
In the factory, he was known for his ″thundering method″ of instructing younger workers.
He often wore wild colors, explaining that unless inventors and artists ″have the courage and determination to break with established ideas, they cannot expect to do a good job.″
Analysts credit Honda’s successes to innovative management and an almost obsessive commitment to quality.
Honda President Nobuhiko Kawamoto told a news conference today that Honda ″taught us the challenge of life without compromise and the real meaning of technology.″
Honda also has been an engine supplier for Formula One auto racing. One of the 11 F-1 races each year now is held in Suzuka, Honda’s home region in central Japan.
Honda had begun experimenting with racing cars in the 1920s, building his first sports car using an old aircraft engine. In 1936, in the All-Japan Auto Speed Rally, he set a speed record of 78 mph.
In 1980, he received the Holley Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for his contributions to the development of small engines.
Honda is survived by his wife, Sachi, two daughters - Keiko Ogata and Chikako Carter - and a son, Hirotoshi.