Honda: Corporate Rap Sheet
By Philip Mattera
Honda Motor was one of the great entrepreneurial success stories of post-war Japan. The company grew from a modest operation making engines for motorizing bicycles, into the world's leading motorcycle producer, and then into one of the most aggressive automakers. The company made major innovations in engine design—including ones that drastically cut polluting emissions--and played a leading role in opening the huge North American market to Japanese producers.
Honda became so firmly entrenched in the United States—from which it came to receive more than twice the revenue from Japan--that its operations there became regarded by many as a U.S. company. Honda is now battling with Toyota for market leadership in hybrids and other highly fuel-efficient cars. While generally acting as a progressive force in the environmental arena, Honda has been less enlightened in its policy toward the collective bargaining rights of its employees.
Environment and Product Safety
As far back as the 1960s, Honda engineers were preoccupied with the issue of automobile emissions. When the U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970 made emission control an imperative, Honda approached the problem differently than other automakers. Instead of relying on catalytic converters to treat the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide emissions, Honda sought to reduce pollutants at the source. It developed an auxiliary combustion chamber in which the ratio of air to fuel was low, while the ratio was raised much higher than normal in the main chamber. The system, known as Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion, or CVCC, was introduced in the early 1970s, and was the first to meet the standards of the Clean Air Act.
Honda continued to increase engine efficiency, and in 1991 announced that its 1992 Civic VX would receive a fuel-efficiency rating of an astounding 55 miles per gallon (mpg) for highway driving and 48 mpg for city driving. The company...