Item description for The Honda Myth: The Genius and His Wake by Masaaki Sato...
From the top Japanese auto-industry journalist comes this inimatably informed account of Honda Motor Company's birth out of the ashes of World War II and subsequent rise. As gripping as it is enlightening on far more than its main subject. Sato's unbiased reckoning won him Japan's premier non-fiction award. Available in English for the first time with a new chapter exclusive to this edition and prefaced by Paul Ingrassia, The Honda Myth is indispensable reading for industry insiders, business leaders and car enthusiasts.
The first Japanese automaker to open a factory in the U.S., Honda grew its North American share in the 1970's with the introduction of the first environmentally friendly car, the Civic. Just as the manufacturer's combination of engineering excellence, racing dominance, and risk-taking was driving it into the international spotlight, however its trademark free-spiritedness threatening to take a backseat to bureacrary and complacency.
Honda was the brainchild of two very different men. One, a genius engineer who never went to college but became the face of the company-Soichiro Honda. The other, a shrewd businessman who breezed into management and directed behind the scenes-Takeo Fujisawa. Apart, they may have never met international success, but together they made their mark. Yet, after Honda and Fujisawa's retirement, and decisively after the departure of heir apparent Shoichiro Irimajiri, Honda Motor looks like what it once seemed incapable of becoming-a faceless firm.
Overshadowed by the ever-changing competition in areas like F1 racing and low-pollution engine technology that were its pride, the old hothouse of invention is less sexy these days. The Honda Myth argues that the cult worship of Soichiro Honda that Takeo Fujisawa formented, at first to the firm's great benefit, worked against it in subtle ways as well. Though the company's future looks bright, it offers no beaming face.
"The engineering innovations that spurred Honda's growth in its first quarter-century have given way to more convention forms of success. No one can understand Honda, or the current state of the global auto industry without reading Mr. Sato's book." -Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Ingrassia
"Masaaki Sato's career as a business journalist enabled him to see firsthand much of the evolution, struggles and fascinating men who built Honda, the youngest of Japan's automotive giants. Sato does a masterful job of weaving together the ambitions and conflicts between the strong personalities of the Honda Founders with the economic, industrial and political upheavals that tipped global automotive power in Japan's favor and vaulted Honda into Japan's Big Three despite the obstacles thrown in its way." -Maryann Keller, leading auto industry analyst
Masaaki Sato simply has no peer when it comes to reporting on the Japanese auto industry, his prominence dating back to the 1980's when he was on the auto beat for Nikkei (the Japanese Wall Street Journal). Currently an executive at Nikkei Business Publications, he is the author of highly regarded histories including one on the early days of home video technology (i.e., VHS vs. Betamax) and that has been adapted to the big screen. His most recent book is The House of Toyota. FOREWORD By Paul Ingrassia The names of the big Japanese consumer-products companies--Sony, Toshiba, Toyota and the like--are well known to virtually all Americans. But the men who built these world-class companies, and the stories behind how they did it, remain largely obscure in the world's largest consumer nation. Now Masaaki Sato, Japan's foremost automotive journalist, lifts the obscurity from the men who founded Honda Motor Co. during Japan's lean years in the wake of World War II. There is, of course, Soichiro Honda, the engineering genius who gave the company his name. But equally as important, Mr. Sato brings to life Takeo Fujisawa, the financial and management genius without whose skills Mr. Honda would have been just another garage-shop tinkerer. The two men were total opposites, yin and yang, and the polarity of their temperaments as well as their skills parallels those of the first Henry Ford and his top financial man, James Couzens. But there is a big difference between these two automotive odd couples. Messrs. Ford and Couzens had a falling out after Ford Motor rose to success, a phenomenon that happened more than once with those who were close to Henry Ford. In sharp contrast, when Mr. Honda was inducted into Detroit's Automotive Hall of Fame in October 1990, he flew back to Tokyo and placed his medal on the memorial tablet that commemorated Mr. Fujisawa, who had died two years earlier. “Takeo Fujisawa was the stalk that supported the gay flower Soichiro,” Mr. Sato writes. “The stalk withered first, in the winter… The petals scattered in the summer.” Mr. Honda was a genius engineer and a born extrovert. He loved to party and he craved the spotlight. The reserved Mr. Fujisawa was a loner who often worked at home and rarely, if ever, drove a car, preferring instead to be chauffeured around. They met each other through a Japanese bureaucrat who knew Soichiro Honda needed money and also knew that Mr. Fujisawa could figure out how to raise it. What Honda's co-founders had in common, as Mr. Sato tells it, were their explosive tempers--which earned Mr. Honda the nickname “Thunderer” among employees, who also labeled Mr. Fujisawa “Godzilla.” But the two men also had an uncanny ability to command loyalty and to inspire their employees. Honda Giken Kogyo, or Honda Motor Company, officially was incorporated as a motorcycle maker on Sept. 24, 1948 in Japan's bleak, early post-war years. It was a year later that Messrs. Honda and Fujisawa met and formed their partnership, with the former handling engineering and manufacturing, and the latter handling financial affairs. Soichiro Honda was 42 years old, and Mr. Fujisawa was 38. Expansion was frenetic in the early years. A young recruit named Satoshi Okubo got rude treatment during his job interview, which prompted him to ask the interviewer: “When did you begin working for Honda, sir.” The reply: “Yesterday.” Mr. Okubo later became chairman of the company. By 1954, when the company went public, Honda was the dominant motorcycle manufacturer in Japan. But the company's sales soon plunged, partly due to quality problems. Mr. Honda responded by setting plans to enter the world's most prestigious and demanding motorcycle race: England's Isle of Man TT. The goal rallied employees to improve quality, even though it took five years before Honda actually entered the race. The company's motorcycles placed sixth, but just two years after that Honda shocked the motorcycle world by sweeping the top five positions. Thus began a pattern: racing would inspire product advancements and generate publicity, both of which propelled Honda's increasing sales success. All this inspired Mr. Fujisawa, despite his financial bent, to insist that the company's engineering research operations be set up as a separate entity, albeit affiliated, from the manufacturing business. His goal was “to isolate the new section's research budget from Honda's sales income,” Mr. Sato writes. So Honda Research and Development Co. produced a string of engineering innovations, and also a string of Mr. Honda's successors as CEO. The setup remains unique among automotive manufacturers. In 1955 Honda established stock options for employees, allowing each one to buy an unlimited number of shares for about 50 cents each--one-fourth of the market price at the time. Between 1959 and 1961 the price of Honda's shares surged 72-fold. The good times were rolling. Honda was a company of young people, many of whom met their spouses at work. If both husband and wife had purchased stock options, the couple was instantly well off. “Men who married within the company were the envy of the other staffers,” Mr. Sato writes. Then in 1961, as in 1954, Honda hit a financial crisis, but this time the cause was different. Instead of quality and production glitches, the new crisis began when production capacity surged beyond the capability of the company's sales and marketing network. Only emergency financing from Japan's Mitsubishi Bank allowed Honda to escape unscathed. Just two years later, in 1963, Honda held lavish parties in Kyoto, Japan's cultural capital, to celebrate its fifteenth anniversary. The company booked virtually all of the nation's top entertainers and reserved the ballrooms of every major hotel in the city. Most of these events occurred at the young company before it made a single automobile. Honda was a maker of motorcycles and motor scooters, pure and simple. And if Japan's strong-willed bureaucrats had had their will, Honda would have stayed that way. Messrs. Honda and Fujisawa dreamed of going “big time” and entering the car business. But Japan's trade ministry planned laws that would “rationalize” the country's then-fledgling auto industry by limiting new entrants. Honda defied the bureaucrats and moved ahead anyway. The Honda Sports 500 automobile, or “S500” for short, finally went on sale in October 1963. The car was derided as “just a four-wheeled motorcycle,” and it never made money for Honda. But Honda was on its way to becoming the premier automobile manufacturer that it is today. Mr. Sato introduces and portrays other key Honda personalities besides the two co-founders. One of the most vivid is Shoichiro Irimajiri, a talented engineer who oversaw Honda's first U.S. car-manufacturing factory in Ohio. Until Mr. Irimajiri and Honda came along, no foreign auto maker ever had succeeded in making cars in America. Honda's brazen success seemed to give Mr. Irimajiri, known as “The Prince of Honda” for his outgoing personality and love of racing, the inside track to becoming CEO. But it didn't turn out that way. While Mr. Irimajiri was overseeing Honda's American adventure, the more reserved Nobuhiko Kawamoto was closer to home and to headquarters--running Honda R&D, the company's engineering lab. Both men had joined Honda in 1963, had served on the company's Formula 1 engine-development team together and had been close colleagues and friendly rivals over the years. The winner, in the spring of 1990, was Mr. Kawamoto, who became Honda's fourth CEO thanks partly to Honda's “tradition of being led by those who do not seek to lead.” Mr. Kawamoto led Honda through another difficult period in the mid-1990s, when the Japanese yen rose in value and American consumers flocked to SUVs and minivans, catching Honda flat-footed. Ironically, part of his solution was pulling Honda out of Formula 1 racing competition, where both he and Mr. Irimajiri had cut their teeth. Mr. Irimajiri, meanwhile, left Honda, and later was heavily recruited for a senior job at General Motors. But the man who had made automotive history at Honda declined the chance to do it again at GM. The personalities, issues, crises and key decisions at Honda are portrayed in detail in The Honda Myth: The Genius and His Wake. The engineering innovations that spurred Honda's growth in its first quarter-century have given way to more conventional forms of success. No one can understand Honda, or the current state of the global automotive industry, without reading Mr. Sato's book.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1.3" Width: 6.25" Height: 9" Weight: 1.55 lbs.
Release Date Dec 19, 2006
ISBN 1932234268 ISBN13 9781932234268
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More About Masaaki Sato
Masaaki Sato simply has no peer when it comes to reporting on the Japanese auto industry, his prominence dating back to the 1980's when he was on the auto beat for "Nikkei" (the Japanese "Wall Street Journal"). Currently an executive at Nikkei Business Publications, he is the author of highly regarded histories including one on the early days of home video technology (i.e., VHS vs. Betamax) and that has been adapted to the big screen. His most recent book is "The House of Toyota,"
Reviews - What do customers think about The Honda Myth: The Genius and His Wake?
Avoid Mar 17, 2008
I am a Honda fan, and I bought this book to gain insight into the history of the company through its products. Unfortunately the book failed to deliver what I'd hoped for. It vaguely describes management decisions made through the years, and some of the top management personalities, and their roles in the company's fortunes. However, it is very repetitive and ungainly. In fact I can't believe that it has so many pages, and such small text, yet says so little.
Honda is a company which specialises in engineering, and the author of such a book should ideally have a good engineering background. Mr Sato obviously couldn't tell a piston from a conrod. Further to this, the translation into American English doesn't seem to be done by somebody who understands many of the concepts in the book either. Over and above this, it has way more than its fair share of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Avoid.
Mythplaced Nov 28, 2007
I agree with both the positive & negative. It is a long, repetitive and boring book with many technical & date errors; far too much unnecessary detail such as the names of hotels where meetings occurred. And yes, NO pictures or graphics of any kind! Having said that, I did learn a lot more about the Honda company, it's people & products, that I had not found elsewhere. As a Hondaphile, I will swallow anything Honda related. You have to remember that it was written by a Japanese journalist for Japanese consumption; detail is in their DNA. If you're in business, like me, there are some good philosophical lessons too. You've been warned.
Journal with Strategic Insights Mar 16, 2007
It reads like a diary or journal kept by some traveller moving through Honda...but through careful and diligent reading you can catch many of the formative insights that guided Honda through the constant changes.
This book is not a regular business management book, with issues presented in a structured manner. It's a reflection of the work ethic where hard work and long hours will pay off with brief but influential flashes of creativity.
Honda Myth: Too Tedious and Repetitive Feb 12, 2007
I was hoping this book would give a thorough background of Honda as a manufacturing entity. What it did was go into exhaustive, boring, tedious and repetitive detail on seemingly every executive that ever worked at Honda in a senior management level. There was precious little information on how Honda changed the face of motorcycling in the world during the 70s, hardly any useful information on the Acura brand and barely any mention of Honda's other product lines, such as ATVs, portable generators and power equipment.
I was also disappointed that a 475 page book with a small typeface and narrow borders did not have a single illustration, photograph, chart or the like. There is nothing but text in this book. It would have been nice to see a picture of a Honda Cub motorcycle, the H1300 car, the N360 'k' car, a diagram showing how the CVCC engine worked, etc. These topics were discussed over and over in the book, but there is nothing to illustrate them.
This book could have been half the length and covered the same material, because it repeats itself over and over, and sometimes contradicts the repeated material.
Overall, I was disappointed. It is a tedious read lacking in what I consider interesting information on Honda's products, while dwelling endlessly on certain executives and why they became president, vice president, etc.