HONDA: Making It in America by Robert L. Shook

HONDA: Making It in America

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A gushy, uncritical assessment of how Japan's Honda established its enviably productive manufacturing base in the US. For openers, Shook, who has ghosted books for such leading mercantile lights as IBM's Buck Rogers and Mary Kay (of cosmetics fame), offers a sketchy corporate history. Founded after WW II by Soichiro Honda as a supplier of small engines, the upstart enterprise soon achieved world-class status in motorcycles on the basis of its engineering and merchandising skills. Moving into the capital-intensive automobile industry, Honda defied conventional wisdom and made good again. Company executives reached another bold decision during the 1970's, and, in 1982, Honda became the first Japanese firm to build cars in America. The East/West manufacturing venture, located in rural Ohio, has prospered mightily. By Shook's sunny-side-up account, good design, superior service, and painstaking attention to detail on the assembly lines rank among the most significant reasons Honda has been able to make remarkable inroads in the competitive US car market. Also important, the author emphasizes, is a communicative management style that puts a premium on employee teamwork and participation. While Shook includes upbeat examples detailing how Honda's self-consciously egalitarian policies can pay off in enhanced morale and cost savings, he never really comes to grips with the means by which the company practices what it preaches. In like vein, the author's fulsome rundown on the heretofore unrecorded Honda Way fails to make this estimable code sound substantively different from other high-minded statements of corporate principles and purpose. There's obviously much to learn about personnel, production, and related matters from Honda's success story. Shook's version, unfortunately, promotes without probing the company's performance.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Prentice Hall Press