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Founded in post-war Japan in 1946, the Honda Motor Company’s initial endeavors was producing motorized bicycles. It was not until 1963 that they produced their first four wheeled vehicle.
The founder of the Honda Motor Company, Soichiro Honda, started his automotive manufacturing career producing piston rings for Toyota. After losing one factory to a B-29 bomber attack and the second to an earthquake, the remains of the company were sold to Toyota and the proceeds used to build the Honda Technical Research Institute. Here small engines were manufactured to be used to power bicycles. An idea Soichiro came up with while visiting a friend.
At this time England had been producing motors for bicycles for some time, but few had made it to the shores of Japan. Post-war transportation issues drove the demand up as the bicycle became the primary way to get around. After having his wife, Sachi, test drive his final product with success, Soichiro Honda was ready to start mass production.
The first engines were remanufactured from left over war supplies by a team of 12 men working inside of a small shack. When those supplies ran out they started to build their own. Honda Model A was sold as an accessory for a bicycle and become commonly known as the bata bata for the distinctive noise that it made.
By 1949 Honda and his close friend Takeo Fujisawa were prepared to unmask their first complete motorcycle. The Honda Technical Research Institute was closed, and in its place rose the Honda Motor Company. The first bike was christened the Dream and paved the way for the Honda Motor Company to become the largest motorcycle manufacturer on the planet.
By the early 1960’s, Honda was ready to take on 4 wheeled vehicles. Their first venture was a mini pick-up truck known as the T360. This was followed quickly by the introduction of the S500 sports car. In the United States, they were still considered to be a motorcycle company until the 1973 Honda Civic was introduced. With its emergence coinciding with the first energy crisis, this water cooled, 4 cylinder engine driven darling became a fast favorite in the U.S.
1976 saw the birth of the first Honda Accord, which to this day is one of the best selling cars in the United States. The success of its brand in the U.S. and problems with Japan’s control over exports prompted the construction of a Honda plant in Ohio. By 1982, Honda Accords and Civics were being mass produced within the United States without being distinguishable by their counterparts manufactured in Japan.
The spending spree that characterizes the 1980’s fueled Honda’s need to create a luxury vehicle to compete in the high end car market. The Acura entered the market in 1986 with the Integra and Legend and quickly rose to the top of the desired luxury car list.
SUV’s and the craze to own one almost brought Honda to its knees in the ‘90’s. Unprepared for the changing market, they became at risk for takeover by Mitsubishi Motors. Some fast changes in production strategies and the introduction of the Odyssey and CR-V quickly turned the company back around.
Today you will find the Honda Motor Company engine in a variety of products. That first small engine thought up in a backyard now is found in the tools used to trim yours. In addition to being a leader in car manufacturing, Honda has a strong hold in the lawn and garden tool business as well as electronic generators. They also motorize your favorite ATV’s, motorcycles, scooters and outboard engines. The next step for Honda is the aviation industry and a five passenger, 480 mph business jet.
Civic – The Civic is available as a sedan, or the much sportier coupe. The 2014 version has an improved suspension over earlier models as well as interior upgrades. With its four cylinder engine you will get 28 MPG rating for city driving and 36 MPG for the highway. Its hybrid version will get you 44 MPG. With over 45,000 of these vehicles sold each year, it is safe to say that the customer satisfaction rating is very high.
Insight – The Insight is Honda’s answer to the low priced hybrid vehicle. While it is inexpensive to make, it is also less efficient than its competitors. For the 40 MPG you get with this vehicle, you are better off to splurge on a hybrid Civic.
CR-Z – This two-seater hybrid is another energy saving fail. Without having the ability to go all electric or a plug in capability, it lacks tremendously for a driver interested in being green.
Accord - Like the Civic, the Accord is available as a sedan or a coupe. Both models come either as a 2.4 liter four cylinder or a 3.5 liter six cylinder. This is one of America’s top selling cars and is included on every 10 best list each year. A hybrid version is also on the market with limited availability.
CR-V – This is a highly functional crossover that looks small on the outside but is very spacious within. The four cylinder engine will get you 22 MPG when driving in the city and 30 MPG on the highway.
Crosstour – The Crosstour is a more expensive, yet less impressive version of the Accord. An attempt at an all-road vehicle by Honda, this car is lacking in too many qualities to qualify.
Odyssey – The Odyssey manages to make the mini-van look cool. With seating for up to eight, this vehicle is fuel efficient as well, getting 28 MPG on the highway from its six cylinder engine.
Ridgeline – This is a great combination of truck utility with crossover drivability. The cabin is comfortable and the pick-up comes with some great perks like an under floor trunk and a high walled cargo space.
Pilot – A great alternative to the mini-van. There is seating room for eight, but the seats in this versatile crossover will also fold down to give you the cargo space you need when hauling.
Fit - The super compact car from Honda has been around since 2006 and is surprisingly roomy inside. With a base price of less than $17,000, this is Honda’s least expensive line.
Acura – Each year Honda manages to improve on seemingly perfection and give consumers new reason to love its luxury line. With its unmistakable sleek look and amazing engine power, the Acura brings class and sophistication to the Honda image.
From little engines for bicycles to some of the best known models on the planet, Honda has made a big name for itself in a short amount of time. Using innovative design features and staying on top of the ever changing automotive market has helped to make Honda the 4 wheeled vehicle giant we know today.