HONDA: The Man and His Machines by Sol Sanders

HONDA: The Man and His Machines

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Soichiro Honda, recently retired head of the Japanese motorcycle and automobile manufacturing concern, is one of the more startling and anomalous mavericks of Japan's postwar boom. The child of relatively poor parents, Honda became an industrialist chiefly through his persistent curiosity about things mechanical, not through school or family ties with the zaibatsu, the Japanese industrial elite. Sanders gives a broad but sketchy account of Honda's meteoric career--he began as a bicycle and auto repairman, spent several years in an unsuccessful search for a better way to make piston rings, and then in 1946 had the ingenious (but not original) idea of welding army surplus motors onto bicycle frames. In just a few years Honda became a household word. However Sanders' true interest is not the founder but his enterprise: much of the book is devoted to Honda's place in the Japanese economy, to the nature of its products and technological innovations, and the difficulties the company experienced as it moved into the world market. Though the book provides a useful look at the Japanese comer on cheap motor transport, it has two flaws: the portrait of Mr. Honda does little more than say that he is persistent, clever, and sometimes wildly flamboyant, while on the whole the work is uncritical. Surely the only shortcoming of this quite remarkable entrepreneur and his $1.7 billion-a-year corporation is not the failure to perfect the piston ring.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1975
Publisher: Little, Brown