In the year that Neil Armstrong touched down on the surface of the moon, Honda touched down in Australia.
Honda Australia celebrates its 40th birthday on Wednesday, 4th February 2009.
From its humble beginnings in a two-bedroom flat in the Melbourne suburb of South Yarra, Australia is now one of Honda's leading markets.
Honda Australia’s first General Manager, Mr. Hidehiko Shiomi, set up business in a Millswyn Street flat and represented half of the initial workforce. His colleague at this time was Mr. David Morwood. There are now over 500 people employed by Honda in Australia including the motorcycle, power equipment and marine company (Honda MPE).
Life, Scamp and Z360 may not be familiar model names these days, but were among the first cars that Honda released in Australia. The comparison of these ‘minis’ to current models, such as the the Honda Accord Euro which won the 2008 Wheels 'Car of the Year' award highlights how progressive the company has remained over 40 years.
Honda Australia’s current Managing Director and CEO, Mr. Yasuhide Mizuno, is proud of Honda’s accomplishments during this time.
“Over the last four decades, we have had the pleasure of selling some of the most exciting and innovative vehicles on the Australian market. Even in those early days, Honda was ahead of its time, releasing models that included power steering and electric windows as standard,” Mr. Mizuno said.
It took less than a year for Honda to outgrow the South Yarra flat and at the end of 1969, Honda moved to a warehouse complex in Johnston Street, Abbotsford.
1972 was a major turning point when Honda released the Civic in Australia. This car soon became one of Honda’s most enduring vehicles.
“The release of the Civic cemented the Honda brand in Australia and showcased the innovative technology that people would come to expect from us over the years,” said Mr. Mizuno.
The Civic also entrenched Honda as an environmentally responsible company.
“Honda has been a world leader in producing low emission vehicles, dating back to the original Civic in 1972 with its ultra-clean CVCC engine. We have introduced hybrid and natural gas powered cars and in the future, it is our vision to provide the world with the ultimate emission-free car, Honda’s hydrogen fuel cell FCX Clarity,” said Mr. Mizuno.
Honda Australia went from strength to strength over the next decade and when the Accord was introduced in 1977 it immediately won Wheels 'Car of the Year’, the first Japanese car to win the coveted award. A year later the popular sports coupe, the Prelude was introduced and gathered a new legion of fans.
By the 1980s Honda was no longer a small operation and moved its headquarters to Tullamarine. It also commenced selling motor vehicles in Western Australia, opened a new office in Tasmania to sell motorcycles and released the Prelude and Civic second and third generations.
In 1984 the first ever Legend was released, Honda’s flagship model.
Honda began manufacturing lawnmowers on the 17th of February 1988, quickly expanding the business with significant volumes to New Zealand, China and the Middle East.
Road safety and rider education were catered for with the opening of the Honda Australia Rider Training (H.A.R.T) facility in December 1989, the first in Australia.
In October 1991, Honda Motorcycle and Power Equipment Company was formed as a subsidiary of Honda Australia Pty Ltd. Honda motorcycles have dominated the Australian market since then and supply Australia Post with their now famous Postie bikes. Founding Director Stuart Strickland, who has led the company since 1991, remains a driving force behind the success of Honda MPE.
The power equipment division works closely with Australian industry, supplying Honda engines to a huge range of equipment manufacturers.
With a growing market share and increased popularity for the brand, Honda Australia founded its corporate social responsibility arm, The Honda Foundation in 1992. The Foundation supports Australian charities and not-for-profit organisations.
Honda Australia's Senior Director and Chairman of the Foundation, Mr. Lindsay Smalley, says the Foundation is an important part of Honda, whose global vision is to be a company that society wants to exist.
“The Foundation has donated over $6 million to worthy Australian organisations that help the disadvantaged and promote research. The Foundation draws funding from our Australia-wide dealer network as well as Honda Australia. For each car sold, the dealer donates $5 to the Foundation and Honda Australia donates $10,” Mr. Smalley said.
Honda's quality has always been a hallmark of the brand and has been recognised by both customers and the media alike. Over the past 40 years, Honda Australia has amassed a sizeable trophy cabinet with its cars winning the following awards:
- Wheels Car of the Year awards
- Australia's Best Car awards
- Wheels Quality awards
- Drive Car of the Year awards
- Australian Design of the Years awards
The Accord Euro won the 2008 Wheels 'Car of the Year' Award, the fifth won by Honda. The first was the original Accord in 1977, the Prelude in 1987, the NSX in 1991 (joint with Nissan Pulsar) and the Odyssey in 1995.
Now, some 14 years later the Honda Accord Euro has triumphed, winning the 46th annual award of the worlds longest continuously running Car of the Year award.
“It is fitting that Honda Australia enters its 40th birthday year winning such a prestigious award. I trust we will have another successful 40 years,” Mr. Mizuno said.
Happy 40th birthday Honda Australia!
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