Honda Celebrates 50 Years in the US

2009 marks Honda’s 50th year of business in the United States.

The first overseas subsidiary of Honda Motor Co. Ltd., American Honda Motor Co. Inc., was established in a small Los Angeles storefront on June 11, 1959. The company’s first product was the imported step-through Honda 50 — a relatively diminutive offering compared to the American and European brands sold at the time — and its first motorcycle produced stateside rolled off the production line in Marysville, Ohio, in 1979.

Today, Honda employs more than 27,000 U.S. associates in the design, development, manufacturing, sale and servicing of Honda and Acura products, including automobiles, motorcycles, ATVs, personal water craft, power equipment and a light jet.

Honda operates 10 U.S. manufacturing plants with two new plants under construction, along with 14 R&D facilities and more than 12 regional sales, parts and service and finance offices around the country. The company’s network of U.S. parts suppliers comprises of 545 companies in 34 states with annual purchases exceeding $17.5 billion in 2008.

In related news, Honda this year also celebrates its 50th anniversary of racing activities.

The 1959 Isle of Man TT witnessed the first entry from a Japanese team in the World GP series. That first race resulted in Honda claiming sixth, seventh, eighth and 11th in the 125cc lightweight class, as well as the Manufacturers’ Team Award. That relative success prompted the OEM to compete in the full GP series in the following year.

Interestingly, despite 2009 serving as such an important year for Honda, the OEM chose to withdraw from U.S. road racing activities, end motorcycle product at its plant in Marysville, cancel the Honda Hoot rally and cease production of ATVs and personal watercraft at Honda of South Carolina Mfg. Inc. for three months beginning in March.

Honda sold 320,000 units to North America — the U.S., Canada and Mexico — in its recently ended fiscal year, down from 453,000 units in the previous year.