Defining excellence isn't a problem; all it takes is a dictionary. Etymologically speaking, the key to excellence can be found in the root of the word, excel: to be superior to; surpass in accomplishment or achievement. In the real world, getting a handle on excellence can prove to be quite a bit more difficult--unless you're a company with the name of Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
Honda first began engine production to power bicycles in 1947. The ensuing 56 years has witnessed the company's historic rise as a global leader in the production of motorcycles, automobiles, marine and other power products--a list that expanded to encompass personal watercraft.
First Stop: Motorcycle Racing
Along the way, Honda not only attained a level of genuine excellence, but also achieved excellence within a scope and breadth that strains the imagination. For example, after producing its first complete motorcycle in 1949, Honda earned world-class respect by winning its first Grand Prix motorcycle road race in 1961, followed by two class championships that same year. In short order, Honda was winning races and championships in five different world GP classes--a dominating effort for such a young company. Fast-forward to 2001, and Honda has chalked up its 500th world GP win in 40 years, a landmark that far surpasses the accomplishment of every other motorcycle manufacturer in the world.
Impressive as this heritage of GP victory appears, it barely scratches the surface of Honda's total achievement. Honda Racing has established a record of superiority in virtually every arena of national and world championship motorcycle competition. In addition to GP racing, Honda also earned championships in Superbike and Supersport road racing on the American AMA circuit and in the FIM world championship series, and has also dominated the legendary Isle of Man TT event, a notoriously technical and demanding race run on public roads. Within the realm of motocross, Honda has earned championships in all classes of competition in America with the AMA and around the world in FIM competition. In America, Honda also boasts championships in drag racing, dirt track, Grand National Cross Country, and Hare Scrambles competition. In AMA national roadracing, motocross, Supercross and off-road titles alone, Honda has won an unrivaled 96 championships. And in the punishing environment of desert racing, including the infamous wilderness of Baja California, Honda has become synonymous with winning.
Formula 1 and CART Championships
Again, lofty as these marks stand, they constitute only one area of excellence. After expanding from motorcycle to automobile production, Honda once more set its sights on the highest goal--that of Grand Prix auto racing--and soon achieved success within that stratospheric level of competition. In 1966, Honda-powered cars won the Formula 1 and Formula 2 GP championships, and Honda notched more race wins and other notable achievements before leaving the sport of auto racing to focus on the production of consumer automobiles. Following a 10-year hiatus, Honda entered the F1 area once again in the 1980s, and by 1992 Honda had amassed six Constructor's Championships, five driver's titles and 71 Grand Prix victories--an amazing achievement.
Having made its mark in the F1 arena, Honda next set its sights on the American racing scene, in Indy car and CART racing events. Following a brief start-up period, Honda earned its first race win in 1995, then went on to dominate the sport with five consecutive driver's championships in this premier class by the close of the 2000 season.
Excellence for Consumers--Present and Future
While the philosophy holds that racing success translates to success on showroom floors, Honda never lost its focus on developing technological advances that directly benefit consumers. Over the years, Honda automobiles have been the proud recipients of top Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy ratings, as well as the coveted number-one spot in the J.D. Power Consumer Satisfaction Index. Honda automobiles and motorcycles have led the way in meeting EPA and California Air Resources Board (CARB) emissions standards, and Honda has also been a multi-time winner in the World Solar Challenge, the world's premier competition for solar-powered vehicles.
Perhaps most significantly of all, in 1989 founder Soichiro Honda became the first Asian to be inducted into the U.S. Automotive Hall of Fame--a crowning achievement for the legacy he created with his life's work in little more than 40 years.
With a track record firmly established the world over, Honda products have truly come to embody industry leadership and engineering excellence.