Heritage

Honda's journey to selling 400 million motorcycles started with a Dream in 1949

Workers manufacture motorcycles in a Japanese Honda factory.

Photo by Getty Images

Honda kicked off production of the Dream D-Type motorcycle in 1949, marking the brand's first foray into commercial motorcycle production. Seventy years later, the company has made its 400 millionth.

"For 70 years, Honda has provided to customers worldwide motorcycles that make life easier and enjoyable," said Takahiro Hachigo, Chief Executive Officer, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. "As a result, we have achieved our 400 million-unit milestone. I am grateful to all of our customers, and everyone involved in development, manufacturing, sales and service of our products. We will continue to do our best to provide attractive products that meet the needs and dreams of our customers worldwide."

Honda Super Cub The Honda Super Cub is the most important motorcycle in Honda's history, selling more than 100 million nationwide since its debut.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Sometimes known as the Type D or Model D, the Dream D-Type was the first in a series of Dream motorcycles that Honda made in its early years. The bike featured an air-cooled two-stroke single-cylinder engine with 98 cc displacement and three horsepower.

Honda unveiled the D-Type's successor, the E-Type, in 1951 and began exporting motorcycles from Japan in 1952. That same decade, in 1958, Honda released its first Super Cub, the Super Cub C100.

The Super Cub is Honda's most successful motorcycle. Its numerous variants accounted for over 60 million total sales by 2008, 87 million by 2014, and 100 million by 2017. It is now the most produced motor vehicle in history.

Honda first entered the motorcycle Grand Prix racing stage in 1959. This decade also the beginning of the production of purpose-built Honda motorcycles for racing that carried the "RC" label. Honda Racing Corporation would eventually form in 1982 and carry on the naming tradition.

1964 Isle of Man TT races British born Rhodesian racing motorcyclist Jim Redman riding a Honda to victory in the Lightweight 250cc event at the Isle of Man TT races, 9th June 1964. Photo by Getty Images

As a way to show the difference between the negative stereotypes that were pervasive in U.S. culture surrounding motorcyclists, Grey Advertising created the slogan "You meet the nicest people on a Honda." The campaign was a resounding success and is still considered a case study in good advertising strategy.

With demand on the rise, Honda expanded production opening a facility in Belgium in 1963 and one in Thailand in 1967. By 1968, the company reached 10 million cumulative motorcycles produced.

Expansion continued with production expanding to Indonesia in 1971 and Italy and Brazil in 1976. It wasn't until 1979 that Honda began producing motorcycles in North America.

Isle of Man Formula One TT 1996 Joey Dunlop of Great Britain and rider of the #3 Honda Britain Honda RC45 chases Shaun Harris on the #1 Britten V1000 during the International Isle of Man Formula One TT (Tourist Trophy) Race on 5 June 1996, Douglas on the Isle of Man, United Kingdom. Photo by Getty Images

Honda continued to have success in the world market though there are mixed opinions regarding the company's lack of competition in the higher-powered motorcycle market in the U.S. Some theorized that it was poor planning on behalf of Honda while others say that it was never Honda's intent to compete.

Honda of America began producing motorcycle engines in Ohio in 1985.

In 1987, as Honda reached the 50 million mark in total motorcycle production in Japan, the company also celebrated the beginning of motorcycle and auto part production at Honda de Mexico. This is the same year that Honda first included an air bag in a car, the Acura Legend.

1992 marked the year that Honda first produced the Honda NR, the first motorcycle that was sold with oval pistons. The shape of the pistons allowed for eight valves per cylinder, generating more power than other setups.

Honda's Marysville, Ohio, Motorcycle Plant produced its 1 millionth vehicle in 1996, a Gold Wing Aspencade.

This City Slicker Super Cub built by Steady Garage for SEMA in 2019 sports chopped and shortened front and rear fenders with a retrofitted front suspension, custom hubs, and a custom two-tone green and off-white paint job.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Motorcyclist magazine named the Honda Interceptor its "Motorcycle of the Year" in 1998. The Interceptor was a notable model because it brought much of the technology of a Honda motorcycle only previously seen on the race track to the street.

Additional production capacity for motorcycles was added with plants in China and Vietnam in the 90s and India in 2001. Bangladesh's Honda factory opened in 2013.

In 2017 India became Honda's largest motorcycle market and the next year the company exceeded 20 million annual motorcycle units produced for the first time.

In 1997, Honda produced its 100 millionth motorcycle, Just 11 years later the company celebrated its 200 millionth and seven years after that the company was at 300 million. Now, just five years later, that total has grown to 400 million.

Honda currently produces a wide range of motorcycles, from 50cc commuters to 1,800cc models, at 35 facilities in 21 countries.

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Friday auction find

Is this the cleanest Honda Prelude left?

This 22-year-old Honda looks almost new.

Cars and Bids

It's Friday, which means we're rounding out the week by obsessing over sales listings and car auctions. It's a good time to be looking, if only from a distance, because there are cars like this 1999 Honda Prelude Type-SH just waiting for us to take them home.

We hear it all the time, but this is likely one of the cleanest remaining fifth-generation Preludes around today. No modifications have been performed, which alone makes this car rare, but the mileage takes the exclusivity a step further. With just 28,700 miles on the clock, this Prelude is nearly new.

The Prelude's 2.2-liter inline-four made 200 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque when new, and this one's mileage is low enough that those numbers are likely still close to accurate. A five-speed manual is on board here, and despite the fact that the car is front-wheel drive, Honda made numerous upgrades to the car that gave it sharp handling.


1999 Honda Prelude Type SH Manual transmission and patterned cloth seats. Does it get much better?Cars and Bids


The Prelude Type-SH was better than its standard counterpart in nearly every measurable way. It rode on 16-inch alloy wheels and lowered suspension that set it an inch lower than the normal car. It also features an active torque transfer system, which could transfer as much as 80 percent of drive power to the outside wheel during cornering. Independent front and rear suspension rounded out the package to make the Prelude Type-SH a quick and nimble front-drive car.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the nostalgia of these cars. After all, for many of us they bring back fond memories of our school years, when cars like the Prelude were new and unobtainable by most young drivers. Even so, it's important to remember that a 20-plus-year-old Honda won't provide a modern driving experience and won't be as sharp as you probably think it will. That's not enough to stop many people (us included) from wanting one, but it's worth noting.


1999 Honda Prelude Type SH The Type SH features many upgrades over the standard Prelude.Cars and Bids

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New compact car

Honda announces 2022 Civic Hatchback

The 2022 Civic Hatchback features a sweeping shape.

Honda

The new 2022 model year cars are coming. Earlier this month, the 2022 Honda Civic Sedan began arriving at dealerships across the country, but Honda isn't resting there. Instead, the automaker just announced the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback, which will come later in 2021 with European-inspired styling and enthusiast-friendly powertrains.

The Civic Hatchback takes much of its inspiration from the new Civic Sedan that has already begun hitting dealers' lots. The automaker says that the new Hatchback is designed for young, active buyers and notes that it will build the car in the United States for the first time. Production will begin later this year at Honda's Greensburg Indiana Plant.


2022 Honda Civic Hatchback The new Civic Hatchback will be offered with a manual transmission option.Honda


The Civic Hatchback takes its styling cues from European sportback cars. That means a smoother, more stretched-out profile instead of the abbreviated liftback shape typically seen in hatchbacks. The design makes the Civic Hatchback's wheelbase 1.4 inches longer and pushes its rear track width out by half an inch. At the same time, the car is 4.9 inches shorter than its Sedan counterpart.

Since it shares so much with the Civic Sedan, the Hatchback shares many of its counterpart's features. The list includes standard features such as:

  • A 7.0-inch color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Updated suspension and steering tuning
  • New front airbags designed to reduce traumatic brain and neck injuries during a crash
  • Updated Honda Sensing camera system with a new Traffic Jam Assist feature

Honda will also offer upgrades, such as a larger HD touchscreen and a Bose premium audio system for the Sport Touring trim.

Two engines will be offered in the Civic Hatchback, both of which can be paired with a six-speed manual transmission. The base LX and Sport trims come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. The EX-L and Sport Touring trims get a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 180 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.

Buyers who don't want to shift their own gears can continuously variable transmission with either engine. However, buyers that do will be treated to a brand-new manual gearbox, at least in the Sport and Sport Touring models. Honda says it redesigned the transmission to provide a sportier feel. It has improved shift rigidity, shorter shift throws and features a new dual-mass flywheel that reduces noise and vibrations from the drivetrain.


2022 Honda Civic Hatchback Folding rear seats opens the Civic's cargo area for better storage.Honda


Honda has not detailed pricing or exact release date information yet but says that the new car will arrive later this year. Pricing for the 2022 Civic Sedan starts at $21,700 before destination and climbs to $28,300 at the top end.

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