Soichiro Honda

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Soichiro Honda
本田 宗一郎

Born(1906-11-17)17 November 1906[1]
Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan[1]
Died5 August 1991(1991-08-05) (aged 84)[1]
Known forFounder of Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
SpouseSachi Honda (1914–2013)[2]
ChildrenHirotoshi Honda,
Yasuhiro Watanabe[3]
Parent(s)Gihei Honda (Father)
Mika Honda (Mother)

Soichiro Honda (本田 宗一郎, Honda Sōichirō, 17 November 1906 – 5 August 1991) was a Japanese engineer and industrialist.[1] In 1948, he established Honda Motor Co., Ltd. and oversaw its expansion from a wooden shack manufacturing bicycle motors to a multinational automobile and motorcycle manufacturer.[4]

Early years[edit]

Honda was born in Kōmyō village, Iwata District, Shizuoka, near Hamamatsu on November 17, 1906. He spent his early childhood helping his father, Gihei Honda, a blacksmith, with his bicycle repair business. At the time his mother, Mika Honda, was a weaver.[5] Honda was not interested in traditional education. His school handed grade reports to the children, but required that they be returned stamped with the family seal, to make sure that a parent had seen it. Honda created a stamp to forge his family seal out of a used rubber bicycle pedal cover.[6] The fraud was soon discovered when he started to make forged stamps for other children. Honda was unaware that the stamp was supposed to be mirror-imaged. His family name 本田 (Honda) is symmetrical when written vertically, so it did not cause a problem, but some of the other children's family names were not.[citation needed]

Even as a toddler, Honda had been thrilled by the first car that was ever seen in his village. In later life, he would often say that he could never forget the smell of oil it gave off, saying that it smelled "like perfume".[7] Soichiro once borrowed one of his father's bicycles to see a demonstration of an airplane made by pilot Art Smith, which cemented his love for machinery and invention.[6]

At 15, without any formal education, Honda left home and headed to Tokyo to look for work. He obtained an apprenticeship at a garage in 1922. After some hesitation over his employment, he stayed for six years, working as a car mechanic before returning home to start his own auto repair business in 1928 at the age of 22.[8]

Honda raced a turbocharged Ford in the "1st Japan Automobile Race" at Tamagawa Speedway in 1936. He crashed and seriously injured his left eye. His brother was also injured. After that, he quit racing.[9]

Development of Honda Motor Co., Ltd.[edit]

In 1937, Honda founded Tōkai Seiki to produce piston rings for Toyota. During World War II, a US B-29 bomber attack destroyed Tōkai Seiki's Yamashita plant in 1944 and the Iwata plant collapsed in the 1945 Mikawa earthquake. After the war, Honda sold the salvageable remains of the company to Toyota for ¥400,000 and used the proceeds to found the Honda Technical Research Institute in October 1946.[10][11] In 1948 he started producing a complete motorized bicycle, the Type A, which was driven by the first mass-produced engine designed by Honda, and was sold until 1951. The Type D in 1949 was a true motorcycle with a pressed-steel frame designed and produced by Honda and with a 2-stroke, 98 cc (6.0 cu in) 3 hp (2.2 kW) engine, and became the very first model in the Dream series of motorcycles. The Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan [ja] lists both the Type A and the Type D models as two of their 240 Landmarks of Japanese Automotive Technology.[12][13]

Soichiro Honda in 1963

After the war, Honda became reacquainted with his friend Takeo Fujisawa, whom he had known during his days as a supplier of piston rings to Nakajima Aircraft Company. In 1949, Honda hired Fujisawa, who oversaw the financial side of the company and helped the firm expand. In 1959, Honda Motorcycles opened its first dealership in the United States.[5][6] As president of the Honda Motor Company, Soichiro Honda turned the company into a billion-dollar multinational that produced the best-selling motorcycles in the world. Honda's engineering and marketing skills resulted in Honda motorcycles outselling Triumph and Harley-Davidson in their respective home markets.

Honda remained president until his retirement in 1973, where he stayed on as director and was appointed "supreme advisor" in 1983. His status was such that People magazine placed him on their "25 Most Intriguing People of the Year" list for 1980, dubbing him "the Japanese Henry Ford." In retirement, Honda busied himself with work connected with the Honda Foundation.[14] In his memoirs, Soichiro Honda expressed his sorrow for sometimes being rude to his employees, humiliating and occasionally even slapping them in the face.[15]

Last years[edit]

Even at his advanced age, Soichiro and his wife Sachi both held private pilot's licenses. He also enjoyed skiing, golf, racing cars, hang gliding and ballooning at 77, and he was a highly accomplished artist. He and Takeo Fujisawa made a pact never to force their own sons to join the company. His son, Hirotoshi Honda, was the founder and former CEO of Mugen Motorsports, a tuner for Honda vehicles who also created original racing vehicles.[16]

ASME established the Soichiro Honda Medal in recognition of Mr. Honda's achievements in 1982; this medal recognizes outstanding achievement or significant engineering contributions in the field of personal transportation. In 1989, he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame near Detroit.

Soichiro Honda died on August 5, 1991, days before the Hungarian Grand Prix, of liver failure. He was 84. Ayrton Senna, winner of the Grand Prix, dedicated the victory to the late Soichiro Honda. He was posthumously appointed to the senior third rank in the order of precedence and appointed a Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.[16][17]



  1. ^ a b c d e Honda Soichiro at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ R.I.P. Sachi Honda, Widow Of Honda Motor Co. Ltd. Founder Soichiro Honda Road Racing World, December 18 2013. Retrieved July 19 2018
  3. ^ "Yasuhiro Watanabe". Der Spiegel (in German). 1983-11-06. ISSN 2195-1349. Retrieved 2022-01-21.
  4. ^ "Do You Remember September 24,1948 ?". Honda History. Honda Motor Co., Ltd. Retrieved 13 August 2013. Including President Soichiro Honda, there were 34 employees.
  5. ^ a b Sharma, Aditya (31 October 2012). "Honda - It Ain't A Dream Without Everyone Being A Part Of It". AutoSpace. Retrieved 13 August 2013. Mr. Honda wasn't satisfied with the use of a readymade engine, he wanted to engineer and invent the future of his company.
  6. ^ a b c Tremayne, David (17 January 2001). "Soichiro Honda: The man behind a legend". Inside F1, Inc. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2013. When Gihei Honda learned what his son had done to get to the airfield, he was more impressed with his initiative, determination and resilience than he was angry with him for taking the money and the bike.
  7. ^ "Honda Worldwide - History". Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  8. ^ "Joy of Manufacturing". Honda History. Honda Motor Co., Ltd. Retrieved 13 August 2013. All kinds of cars were brought to Art Shokai for repair, making it an ideal place for Honda to work and study, eager–even greedy–as he was in his pursuit of knowledge.
  9. ^ Brown, Allen. "Soichiro Honda". Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  10. ^ Alexander, Jeffrey W. (2008), Japan's Motorcycle Wars: An Industry History, UBC Press, pp. 112–116, 197–211, ISBN 978-0-8248-3328-2
  11. ^ Falloon, Ian (2005), The Honda Story, Haynes, pp. 9–13, ISBN 1-85960-966-X
  12. ^ "Honda Type A". 240 Landmarks of Japanese Automotive Technology. Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan, Inc. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2013. The Type A was basically a ready-made bicycle on which was mounted the first independently designed mass-produced engine to carry the Honda name.
  13. ^ "Honda Dream Type D". 240 Landmarks of Japanese Automotive Technology. Society of Automotive Engineers of Japan, Inc. Archived from the original on 15 May 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2013. This was the first model in the Dream series of motorcycles.
  14. ^ "About Honda Foundation". Honda Foundation. Archived from the original on 6 August 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2013. The Honda Foundation was established in December 27, 1977 by donations from the founder of Honda Motor Company, Soichiro Honda, and his younger brother, Benjiro.
  15. ^ Kiss, Andras. "Honda Story". Retrieved 15 January 2023.
  16. ^ a b "A Send-off Befitting the Father of the Company". Honda History. Honda Motor Co., Ltd. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2013. When Soichiro Honda stepped down as president of Honda Motor (September 1973), he was praised by many for his proud and resolute manner.
  17. ^ Hart, Marion (June 2012). "Soichiro Honda Biography". ASME Intl. Retrieved 13 August 2013. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1989, taking his place beside Henry Ford, Walter Chrysler, Alfred Sloane of General Motors and Karl Benz.
  18. ^ "Honda Sig. Soichiro". (in Italian). Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  19. ^ ドキュ案内リーフレット [Guide leaflet] (PDF) (in Japanese). Soichiro Honda Craftsmanship Center. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  20. ^ 䝪䞊䜲䝇䜹䜴䝖日本連盟 きじ章受章者 [Recipient of the Golden Pheasant Award of the Scout Association of Japan] (PDF). Reinanzaka Scout Club (in Japanese). 2014-05-23. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-08-11.