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“JAPANESE EDISON”: how the inventor Soichiro Honda brought the Japanese car industry to a new level

"JAPANESE EDISON": how the inventor Soichiro Honda brought the Japanese car industry to a new level
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Whatever they called him: “Japanese Henry Ford” for flexible business solutions, and “domestic Thomas Edison” for an impressive list of inventions. “He is an example of perseverance, modesty, pleasant demeanor and the ability to perceive mistakes as a valuable asset,” his biographer Gene Landrum wrote about the entrepreneur Soichiro Honda. He titled his book Soichiro Honda – Persistent. Everything about Honda is in this definition.




This year, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. turns 75 years old. It is the path of ups and downs, dizzying victories in the domestic Japanese and foreign markets, 150 patents and several hundred inventions.

The Japanese self-taught engineer, the inventor and the race car driver Soichiro Honda managed to organize the company, applying non-standard approaches and flexible solutions in business, as well as having his own view of selection. Once upon a time, this position seemed revolutionary.

“If you only hire people you understand, then the company will never have a better employee than you. Always remember that you can find outstanding people among those you don’t particularly like,” he said and strove for professional and personal diversity in his teams.

By the way, this year the company has decided to reorganize the workflow, recruiting more young people who are already working with new technologies. About 5% of full-time employees of retirement age will stop working at Honda Motor on very favorable terms.

As part of the early retirement program, the employee will receive his salary for another three years, along with a retirement benefit from the state. As you can see, the progressive approaches of Soichiro Honda in the company are still relevant.




“Entrepreneurs must be willing to set incredible goals for themselves and must be prepared to fail,” Soichiro Honda once said.

The goal of his life, as well as his childhood dream, was to create cars. At first glance, it is an unrealistic dream for a boy from a very poor family. However, from the age of 15, starting to earn money in car workshops, Soichiro Honda gained confidence that he would succeed, even if he had to make an insane amount of mistakes for it. “Honda considered every failure a step closer to great success, no matter what the cost was,” biographers will write about him.

When Soichiro Honda breathed new life into a simple bicycle for the first time by installing a low-power gasoline engine from a generator on it, he began to dream of his own motorcycle company. Having created it in the 50s, he found that the niche was not just occupied, it was overcrowded.

And then Honda had a new idea – applying original design solutions and wise marketing moves, he changed the image of the motorcycle beyond recognition. The two-wheeled car, which was marketed as a loyal friend for brutal bikers, suddenly became a lovable family vehicle.

It was a breakthrough and a complete change in the industry. In the first half of the 60s, the Honda Motorcycle became the dominant motorcycle in almost every country in the world, displacing the famous American and Italian manufacturers.

“You meet the nicest people on a Honda,” Soichiro Honda’s ad was broadcast, and the number of customers increased. In the next five years, he destroyed up to 250 of his competitors in a market with an annual turnover of $ 3 billion.




Trouble and setbacks spurred Soichiro Honda to develop new solutions. As a young man, after seeing how quickly fire destroys the wooden spokes of automobile wheels, he invented and patented metal spokes.

When the US passed a law restricting emissions to the atmosphere in 1970, Honda created the environmentally friendly CVCC engine. The first Honda Motor Co., Ltd. car to conquer America was recognized as the only car fully compliant with the new law. It was Honda Civic of the first generation.

Soichiro Honda was an atypical entrepreneur for Japan – he relied on innovation, was not afraid to take risks, he personally tested new cars and remained at the helm of the company, formally leaving it.

By the way, Honda was the only businessman who did not transfer the reins of the company into the hands of his own heirs. He saw the leaders of his brainchild only people innovators, who were ahead of their time.

But Honda once said, “A company is most clearly defined not by its people or its history, but by its products”. And it echoed in the hearts of his employees.

For thirty years, Honda engineers have been inventing, manufacturing and improving engines for the company’s cars and motorcycles to make them as fuel efficient, environmentally friendly and quiet as possible.

In 2000, Honda presented the Asimo android robot, which understood gestures, recognized people, and distinguished up to three streams of speech. The robots, worth about $ 1 million, were developed to replace a personal secretary or butler. A few years later, the world’s first jet aircraft, the Hondajet, was designed by a private car company.

Soichiro Honda died as a happy man, creating one of the most successful companies in the world. It is evidenced by one of his statements: “Real happiness lies in completion the work using your own mind and skills”.

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