During the week ending on July 23, 2007, Honda Motor Company Ltd. produces its 6 millionth Civic in North America, according to an article in Automotive News.
Honda’s history goes back to 1946, when the engineer Honda Soichiro founded his namesake technical research institute near Hamamatsu in order to produce internal-combustion engines. Incorporated as Honda Motor Company two years later and headquartered in Tokyo, it began producing motorcycles in 1949 and later expanded to automobiles. The first-generation Honda Civic, a subcompact, two-door model, made its debut in July 1972, followed by a three-door version that September. As suggested by its name, Honda saw the Civic as its car for the people; in this way, it was similar to the original “people’s car,” the Volkswagen Beetle. The Civic was an immediate success in its home country, winning Japan’s Car of the Year award for three consecutive years in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Honda began exporting the car to the United States in 1972, and to Canada the following year. In the latter nation, the Civic became the best-selling import car for 28 consecutive months from 1976 to 1978.
The small, fuel-efficient Civic arrived at an opportune time, as the 1972 oil crisis had thrown a wrench in the existing American car market, with its emphasis on big, powerful, gas-guzzling vehicles. Beginning in the 1980s, Honda made the localization of the Civic’s production in America a cornerstone of its efforts to expand its U.S. business overall. Honda had begun operations in the United States in 1959 with the establishment of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., the automaker’s first overseas subsidiary. In 1986, Honda began making the Civic (it had already started production of the mid-size Accord) at its plant in Marysville, Ohio. The following year, Honda built a second U.S. plant in East Liberty, Ohio, in 1989; its production was largely focused on the Civic.
In 2002, Honda added the Civic to its gasoline-electric hybrid lineup, which began with the Insight in 1999. Within a year, hybrid Civics accounted for some 10 percent of the car’s total sales. By July 2007, when the 6 millionth North American Civic rolled off the line, Honda was operating 12 manufacturing plants and employed more than 30,000 people in North America; more than 75 percent of all Honda and Acura (the automaker’s higher-end brand) vehicles sold there were produced and assembled locally. In May 2008, on the brink of a growing economic crisis that would send the automotive industry reeling, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., announced that Civic sales that month (53,299) had shattered the previous monthly record for any car in its lineup.