A letter from Soichiro

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soichiro-letter

On March 20, 1954, Soichiro Honda addressed this letter to all employees of his motor company. In it, he announces his intention, for the first time, to go racing. It’s a moment in time. It’s history being made. It’s the world changing. Totally and forever. It’s also a call to action, asking his company to be inspired by his actions into elevating Japanese industry to new levels.

It reads:

Some five years have passed since the founding of our Honda Motor Co., and I never cease to rejoice that the efforts of all our employees have taken form in the achievement of our epoch-making advances.

Since I was a small child, one of my dreams has been to compete in motor vehicle races all over the World with a vehicle of my own making, and to win. However, before I can become victor over the whole world, I must first, of course, assure the security of the business, obtain precision machinery and equipment, and create superior designs. I have, therefore, been devoting myself entirely to these points, and working to present superior practical vehicles to our customers in this country. Consequently, I have not had any free time for turning my energy to motorcycle racing until today.

Now, however, reports on the recent international motorcycle race held in Sao Paulo have provided me with detailed information on the situation in the countries of Europe and America. I had thought that I was seeing the world with a fair degree of realism, without being caught up in fixed ideas, but now I realize that, after all, I have been blinded by my excessive feeling for Japan in its present situation. Even now, the world is advancing at tremendous speed. Conversely, however, as I have always felt, I am filled with an abundant, unshakable confidence that I can win. The fighting spirit that is my nature will no longer allow me to continue turning away.

Soichiro, 4th from left, at a race in Japan the year after this letter was written.

Now that we are equipped with a production system in which I have absolute confidence, the time of opportunity has arrived. I have reached the firm decision to enter the TT races next year.

Never before has a Japanese entered this race with a motorcycle made in Japan. It goes without saying that the winner of this race will be known across the globe, but the same is also true for any vehicle that completes the entire race safely. It is said, therefore, that the fame of such an achievement will assure a certain volume of exports, and that is why every major manufacturer in Germany, England, Italy, and France is concentrating on preparations with all its might.

I will fabricate a 250cc (medium class) racer for this race, and as the representative of our Honda Motor Co., I will send it out into the spotlight of the world. I am confidend that this vehicle can reach speeds exceeding 180km/h. When this engine is completed on the basis of our company’s creativity, it will be no exaggeration whatsoever to say that it will rank at the world’s highest levels of engineering. Since the motorcycle, a shining star of modern heavy industry, is a comprehensive business, it will require the highest engineering level not only of the engine, but also of tires, chains, carburetors and other parts. To achieve this, it must be supported by meticulous attention to detail and unremitting effort.

I address all employees!

Let us bring together the full strength of Honda Motor Co. to win through to this glorious achievement. The future of Honda Motor Co. depends on this, and the burden rests on your shoulders. I want you to turn your surging enthusiasm to this task, endure every trial, and press through with all the minute demands of work and research, making this your own chosen path. The advances made by Honda Motor Co. are the growth you achieve as human beings, and your growth is what assures our Honda Motor Co. its future.

The scrupulous care that is required when tightening a single screw, and the commitment that refuses to waste a single sheet of paper: these are what will open the way before you, and prepare our route for Honda Motor Co. Fortunately, our outside contractors, our agents, and our banks have given us their generous cooperation. I’m, moreover, blessed with customers who join us as well to help concentrate our entire power on this point.

Honda eventually entered the TT with this RC145 in 1959, placing 6th, 7th, 8th and 11th, taking manufacturer’s victory in the lightweight class.

I see that Germany, though like us defeated in the war, has industries that are reviving, and feel more than ever that our Motor Co. must, above all, enter this race and complete it.

We must gauge the true worth of the Japanese machine industry to raise it to a point where we can display it proudly to the entire world. The mission of Honda Motor Co. is to enlighten Japanese industry.

With this, I announce my determination, and pledge you that I put my entire heart and soul, and turn all my creativity and skill to the task of entering TT Races and winning them.

This I affirm.

Soichiro Honda
President, Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

  • Erok

    EPIC!

  • http://www.desmoworks.com desmoworks

    Just incredible. It’s amazing to think that companies used to operate with unbelievably pure intention such as this.

    • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

      +1

      • RpM

        +1

    • NoVeloNoVin

      +1

  • http://mansgottado.tumblr.com/ Andy Gregory

    Awesome.

  • Alex

    Someone forward this to Ray Blank.

  • Scott-jay

    “… advances made by Honda Motor Co. are the growth you achieve as human beings …”

    • isambard

      yeah that creeped me out a bit, too. Another time and culture, I guess.

      • Archer

        Obviously you haven’t spent much time immersed in modern Japanese culture.

        • Scott-jay

          So, if I’m immersed in North Korea’s culture, I’ll feel it’s groovy?

  • Slothrop

    It’s like looking back at another world, where the president of a company could think of his employees as being an important part of the company. Now it’s only the shareholders who matter.

  • Mitchell

    Steve Jobs could have written something like this.

    What other American corporations other than Apple, Google and Facebook are thinking this way?

    Inspiring.

    m

    • coredump

      I think you’re mislead if you think Jobs would have wrote something like that. Soichiro shows compassion for his employees in this letter. Jobs didn’t give a shit about his people, he just wanted results.

  • http://www.amarokconsultants.com michael uhlarik

    Soichiro was an amazing combination of energy, passion, political and technical savvy and good old fashioned balls.

    A powerful individual in a culture of powerful collective thinking.

    • doublet

      +1!!

      Now, I want to see this next to that spiel from a year or two ago, from the newly appointed head douche at HD. It may have been featured here, and he spoke at length about learning to ride a motorcycle…

      The only point of the words in THIS speech is to affirm the action to be undertaken. “Get in or get out!” The later I spoke of, were words for the sake of creating and perpetuating something that doesn’t really exist.

  • William

    I know that the price I pay for the HFL subscription entitles me to see content such as this . . . and that posts are open to non-subscribers for a period of time.

    But man, I would love to repost this on my Facebook page, tweet it out and link to it from my blog to get it in front of as many folks as possible.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The 12 hour time is specifically designed to allow that. Do it now and it’ll be buried under cat videos and sports bloopers on your facebook, twitter and blog a day from now anyways. That’s these whole internets things work.

  • JVictor75

    Talk about a mission statement!

  • GGno

    “With this, I announce my determination, and pledge you that I put my entire heart and soul, and turn all my creativity and skill to the task of entering TT Races and winning them.

    This I affirm.”

    Such a great man :)

  • TMQ

    Clarity exemplified.

  • oldblue

    That made my day.

  • Rick

    Sheer determination propelled by innate intelligence and insatiable curiousity, a success story from beyond the realm of formal education.

  • NoVeloNoVin

    A sentence missing from the above version: “Even a superior aircraft engine has a power output of about 0.55 PS per liter, but this racer will have nearly double that power, at 1.00 PS per liter.” See http://world.honda.com/MotoGP/history/Man-TT-Declaration/

    Also, the 1959 bikes I believe were designated RC142. The RC145s were the last iteration of the 125cc vertical twins and appeared in 1962.

    Still, great stuff. Thank you HFL.

    • http://mansgottado.tumblr.com/ Andy Gregory

      Look at the big brain on NoVeloNoVin! Seriously dude, nice Honda knowledge.

      And yes, again, awesome, HFL.

  • TuffGong

    Mr. Honda epitomized the leadership that once was a requirement of business. Now,profit is the end,not the means to an end. We are all the poorer for it…

  • T Diver

    That’s the type of inspiration that will bring them back from the tsunami shit storm. (yeah I threw in a tsunami reference. Screw it. 9/11 )

  • Andres Freire

    Wow what inspiration! Awesome.

  • Steven

    meanwhile, in wisconsin:

    “You fellers are building the motors that people will be building and riding fifty years from now!”

    • Core

      What are you referring to?

      • Mike

        Must be Briggs & Stratton.

      • Steven

        harley davidson. they’re not known for technical innovation.

  • Kevin

    Outsized success doesn’t always come along with a colossal ego, but it very often–if not usually–does. I offer Mr. Honda as a case in point. With no judgment. I greatly admire the man and his accomplishments, I just couldn’t help but wince a little at the self-aggrandizement. But to be fair, we may be losing something in translation.

    • Wereweazle

      I didn’t really read it as self-aggrandizement. More of a man secure of his own personality. He acknowledges his need to compete and win. He doesn’t really say that he IS the best or that he WILL win, but expresses his confidence in himself, his team, and their product. I see this more as a recognition that, due to his need to compete, he’s going to do it well and to his utmost ability. Otherwise, why bother?

  • jwinter

    I have never gotten tired of reading this. Soichiro was one of the biggest badasses ever.

  • nbeato

    LEGEND. Not a Honda guy but you have to respect the man.

    “Success is 99% failure” -Soichiro Honda

  • HammSammich

    Completely epic.”Our Honda Motor Co.” If that doesn’t convey a sense of accountability and shared vision for his employees, I don’t know what does. Also, I’m going to start ending all of my correspondence with the phrase, “This I affirm.”

    This I affirm.

  • Patrick from Astoria

    In an innate sense, this is why that company’s products were so brilliant for so long. This is not “let’s make money,” this is not “let’s make what the marketing survey says to make.” This is “let’s win races and make better machines and be a better company.” This is why Honda was one of the greatest manufacturers of the 20th century.

    And this is what they, and too many others, have sadly foregone.

  • Steven

    The first (only?) issue of Motorcyclist Retro had a quote from Soichiro from when he told the boss of Honda USA about the idea for the CB750: “We are going to make a motorcycle that will be known as King of Motorcycles.”

    Then he went and did it.