History

The Honda Motor Co Ltd is recognised internationally as being one of the leading manufacturers of automobiles, motorcycles and power equipment in the world.

From the start of operations in 1948, Honda has followed a corporate policy that stresses originality and innovation in every facet of its activities, from product development to manufacturing and marketing, Honda has striven to attain its goal of satisfying its customers, wherever they may be. Honda is named after the founder, Soichiro Honda, who was born the son of a blacksmith in 1906 in a village near Hamamatsu City. Soichiro Honda was intrigued with mechanical technology from an early age and dreamed that one day he would make his own car to travel in.

His first step in this direction came when he moved to Tokyo after finishing school and began working in a small auto repair shop. In 1946 he established the Honda Technical Research Institute which became the forerunner of Honda today.

In the lean years just after the war when both materials and gasoline supplies were limited, Soichiro Honda managed to procure 500 war surplus engines which he used to build simple motorised bicycles. The year after the establishment of Honda Technical Institute, the production of the first A type auxiliary engine for bicycles was started.

Based on the success of the Honda Technical Institute, the Honda Motor Co Ltd was established with a capital of one million yen. The first real motorcycle was manufactured in the next year of business and Soichiro Honda named it the Honda 'Dream', as this name best reflected his dream of a future of limitless growth for the company. The philosophy of the 'Dream' is still alive in today in Honda products.

At the ninth annual Tokyo Motor Show in 1962, Honda introduced the S360 prototype sports car, which was commercially marketed in 1963 as the S500 with a larger displacement 531cc DOHC engine. From these beginnings, automobiles now account for approximately 80% of Honda's business today.

 

Honda in New Zealand

Honda N360 and S600 models started to appear in New Zealand during the 1960s. The market at that time was controlled by the availability of import licence, and the two distributors imported Honda models in very small numbers.

Following the launch of Civic on world markets in 1972 Honda needed to secure a New Zealand distributor who could provide significantly greater access to import licence and also offer assembly capacity and an established dealer network. Consequently New Zealand Motor Corporation was appointed as the sole Honda distributor in 1975.

New Zealand Motor Corporation had been formed in 1969 by a merger of the assembly, distribution and retail interests of the British Leyland Marques, which had in previous years established an extensive network of assembly plants and retail outlets.

It was clear, however,that the British brands would lose their place in the market to the Japanese and the acquisition of the Honda distributorship by NZMC was a beneficial arrangement for both parties.

Civic assembly started in May 1976 and the model quickly became established as one of the top selling cars in the market (thanks in part to NZMC's huge retail capacity). 

In fact, following the introduction of the Accord (3 door in 1977, 4 door in 1979), Honda's market share rose quickly to reach the 12% level (one of the highest Honda shares in the world).

The transition to an over-supplied market during the 1980s, together with the rapid technological catch-up of the other Japanese brands, impacted on Honda's artificially high market share.

Also, NZMC was reducing its dependence on a more difficult car market by diversifying into unrelated activities.

In 1985 Honda Motor Co Ltd purchased a 25% shareholding of NZMC and Mr Teruhisa Ohki took up residence in New Zealand to represent Honda on the board. The number of assembly plants reduced from three to one between 1983 and 1987 and a progressive rationalisation of the dealer network was also taking place during this period.

Honda New Zealand Limited was formed in August 1988 when the Honda assets were purchased from NZMC Ltd. The company established its Head Office in Manukau City (NZMC was in Wellington) and Mr Kunio Yoshida, who had overseen the establishment of the new company, became the first Managing Director for New Zealand.

One of the first major decisions for the new company was the installation of a state-of-the-art electrocoat paint system at the Nelson assembly plant. This, and other major improvements to the plant's facilities and operations, dramatically raised the quality and corrosion resistance of New Zealand assembled Hondas. There were also major upgradings of the retail dealer network.

It was not all plain sailing however. The early nineties were characterised by a collapse in the ne+w car market brought about by the effects of unlimited imports of used cars, which did not carry the cost penalty of import duty and sales tax which was built into the existing New Zealand vehicle fleet. When import duty on new cars was finally abolished in 1998, the local assembly industry was no longer viable, and Nelson, along with the rest of the industry, was forced to close.

This was the beginning of a new age for Honda New Zealand, and the promise of new car price stability gave the industry renewed confidence. Honda New Zealand saw an opportunity to take a world-leading position on distribution and pricing, and the result was an efficient, low-cost distribution structure combined with transparent, 'one price for all' pricing for all Honda's vehicles. This was launched in May 2000, and since then Hondas have been easily the best-value cars in their respective market segments, and they have suffered less depreciation as well.

In May 2002, Mr. Graeme Seymour was appointed Managing Director of Honda New Zealand, the first non-Japanese in this role. This was a reflection of the success of the company's strategies and the confidence that Honda Motor Co. has in its future.

Honda New Zealand Limited is responsible for the distribution of passenger cars only. The marketing of Honda Motorcycles, Outboard Motors and Power Products in New Zealand is handled by independent distributors.