January 31, 2011
Honda Case Study B
Honda’s emphasis on technology began with Sochiro Honda’s own tinkering to develop engines one at a time, and his ambition to build and race high performance motorcycles. The success of his higher horsepower engines confirmed his ability as a designer. Beginning with the study of combustion, he doubled horsepower and halved weights of engines.
The establishment of The Honda Institute of Technology was misleading because, while it sounded big and impressive, it consisted of just a few men. The establishment did, however, create an image of technological improvement of the motorcycles and a growing organization.
Targeting the local delivery market in Japan was the idea of Honda’s partner, Takeo Fujisawa. Fujisawa encouraged Honda to design a motorcycle for local couriers who carried small packages. Honda adapted his technology for a commercial motorcycle called a Supercub. It featured an automatic clutch and starter, and step-thru frame.
Targeting the low end market in the US was a dilemma for the owners of Honda. They preferred to gain a reputation as a large engine motorcycle manufacturer, but their large bikes were not built for the distances and speeds needed for the US roads. The large bikes were sent back to Japan to correct oil leaks and clutch failures.
During this time, the smaller bikes, called the Supercubs, were noticed by the buyers of small sporting goods stores. There, they were sold on consignment. The owners of Honda entered this low end market reluctantly for fear of alienating the high end market. In began to pay off immediately, with the demand for the Supercub increasing enormously, creating a new market opportunity. This was a big break for them.
Building a new manufacturing plant in 1952 increased Honda’s independence for parts. They began manufacturing chains, sprockets and frames. The plant was a collection of semi-independent activities under the same...
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