Founder of American Honda Passes Away

3/5/2001 6:23:42 AM

Kihachiro Kawashima, founder of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. and advisor to Honda Motor Co., Ltd., passed away Dec. 25, 2000, in Japan. Kawashima was 81 years old.

Kawashima began his career with Honda in Japan in 1951. When the company decided to begin offering its products to the American market in 1958, then 39-year-old Kawashima was named to establish Honda's operations in the U.S.

American Honda Motor Co., Inc. was established June 11, 1959, in a small, storefront office on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. With only seven associates and limited capital, Kawashima faced the daunting challenge of creating a nationwide sales network and loyal customer base in a nation of consumers who knew nothing of the company and already perceived motorcycles -- the company's central product -- in a negative light. The marketing campaign undertaken by American Honda that followed -- "You meet the nicest people on a Honda" -- not only led Honda to the number one position in the U.S. motorcycle market, it also created a more positive image for motorcycles in America.

Kawashima's successful efforts to establish Honda's reputation in the U.S. as a customer-oriented, high-quality manufacturer of technologically advanced products set the foundation for the company's future success not only in motorcycles, but also in automobiles and power products. Insisting on strong community leadership and socially responsible corporate citizenship, Kawashima also founded the principles that continue today as the basis of American Honda's philanthropic endeavors.

Kawashima became a member of the board of directors of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. in 1964 and was appointed president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. in 1973. Kawashima was appointed executive vice president of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. in 1974 and served until his retirement in 1979, at which time he became an advisor to the company.

Private funeral services were held Dec. 29, 2000, in Japan. Honda Motor Co., Ltd. will hold a tribute to honor Kawashima's life on Jan. 29 in Japan.