Soichiro Honda is best known for founding the company that bears his name. Now one of the most successful automakers ever, but did you know he has a co-founder? Takeo Fujisawa joined soon after Honda founded the company, and he would become Soichiro’s right-hand man, helping lead Honda to great success during the nearly 25 years the two were together.
Fujisawa, inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame this week, met Soichiro in August 1949, a year after Soichiro founded his company and just after the launch of the Honda Dream D-Type motorcycle. Fujisawa would join the operation in October of that year, running the business side, such as sales, finance, and marketing. Soichiro focused on product design, technology, and manufacturing operations.
Fujisawa was instrumental in bringing Honda to America even before he started producing cars. In 1959, when the company was exploring expansion ideas, Fujisawa wanted to found American Honda. At the time, he said, “Success in the US means success worldwide,” noting, “Taking on the challenge of the American market is probably the hardest thing to do.” The rest is history.
Honda would become the best-selling motorcycle brand in the US in the mid-1960s thanks to Fujisawa’s savvy business skills. He helped create the company’s independent dealer network, working with small dealers and even novice dealers, successfully expanding its operations across the country.
Fujisawa was also instrumental in founding the independent Honda R&D company in 1960. He wanted to free engineers from the constraints, distractions, and fluctuations of the auto business so they could focus on innovation, and he freed them, as it would quietly begin the aircraft research program in the 1980s that would eventually produce the HondaJet. The company launched the HondaJet Elite II late last year.
Honda R&D Co. also helps and continues to support automakers in cultivating a culture of creativity that protects their ability to pioneer new technologies. This business explores eco-friendly technologies, autonomous driving systems and other cutting-edge fields today.
Fujisawa was born on November 10, 1910. Before meeting Soichiro, he had wanted to be a teacher, but ended up working as a salesman for a steel products company and then a lumber company before joining Honda. Fujisawa worked with Soichiro until March 1973, when the two retired together. He died on December 30, 1988 at the age of 78.
Fujisawa was appointed to be Automotive Hall of Fame on Thursday, July 20, at The Fillmore Detroit. Chairman of Honda Motor Co. Seiji Kuraishi accepted the award on behalf of the Fujisawa family. In 1989, Soichiro Honda was the first Japanese automotive executive to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.