An employee of the British motorcycle magazine MOTOR CYCLE NEWS recently met with Soichiro Honda in Tokyo to discuss the prospects for the motorcycle over the next ten years, the founder, president and technical initiator of Honda's plants, which currently produce around one and a half million motorcycles per year and whose racing machines have won no less than 15 brand world championships over the last few years.
It's hardly surprising that Mr. Honda is an optimist - otherwise he couldn't have become the biggest motorcycle producer in the world. And the fact that he knows something about motorcycles and motorcycle building should not be denied by anyone who knows that Soichiro Honda himself is the Teduvian head of the company, from which the basic concepts of all the motorcycle models originate, which - as series-produced and racing machines - have achieved such worldwide success. His vision of the future is thus also based on the optimism of a man who, as a connoisseur and expert, is deeply rooted in his life's work. "In the next ten years, he said, the great era of the "individual machine" will come. The declared motorcycle enthusiasts will undoubtedly want to buy a machine that somehow intersects with the other's." Honda believes that serial production for these customers will be limited to basic models, which will then be completed and equipped according to the customer's wishes. Of course, he is thinking of light for technical worthless cleaning, but rather of the possibility of being able to precisely fit the body dimensions of the driver: his position on the machine and the position of all of his operating levers. Not two motorcycles of the models built for this group of prospective customers will be exactly the same - he believes (the technician!).
However, he is convinced that the motorcycle markets of the coming years will have to be divided into two groups: one group - represented above all by buyers in the United States - who want nothing more than fun with their motorcycles in their spare time - and the other group - buyers in developing countries, for whom the motorcycle will be the economic transport equipment for many years to come. "At present, according to Honda, the motorcycles for these two large customer groups hardly differ at all - but in a few years' time, a single glance will suffice to determine the difference".
"Nevertheless, the Honda motorcycle will keep its shape and lines, the Honda president continued. By and large, a 1975 motorcycle of the year will still look exactly the same as it does today. Disguises (honda's personal opinion) will hardly gain more popularity than prey, apart from countries with unfavourable climatic conditions. Perhaps the team will make a comeback - but only if it succeeds in giving it a completely new line."
In Honda's opinion, the number of cubic capacity sizes will by no means be reduced, but rather will increase even more - prompted by the wishes of "individual buyers" who also want to have differentiation options with regard to cubic capacity. It is not surprising to hear from Honda's mouth the prediction that the four-stroke engine will be more important than the two-stroke engine for the motorcycles of the coming years with regard to the lighter exhaust gas detoxification. Production models with more than two cylinders will not be available due to the high production costs. But the engine capacity capacity of the engines will increase considerably in the course of new material knowledge and because the supply industry, especially the electrical engineering industry, will certainly come up with new developments - by about 50% over the next ten years.
Tyres will improve, new materials will provide better grip on the road and thus make it possible to really exploit the existing possibilities of brakes. Of course, according to Mr. Honda, the arrangement of the operating levers will be standardized. For example, the brake pedal will be located everywhere on the right - a matter of course from the point of view that most motorcyclists will also be car drivers and both vehicles will have to be braked with the same reaction.
Honda also believes that the number of motorcycle manufacturers in the world will remain more or less the same. For the small producers, he sees future opportunities especially in the hip view of the "individual motorcycle". "Of the 3 billion people currently living in the world today, only one in eight can even afford a bicycle. This is where the great future for the motorcycle industry lies - we have only taken the very first steps into this future."
This is how Soichiro Honda sees the future - for his plant and for the whole industry. Some people will be surprised that this man paints such perspectives for the motorcycle, of which one would like to believe that the motorcycle has already been written off for him and that there are only automobile plans for him and his development team of several hundred people. Admittedly, all this is true of what one hears about Honda's increased activity in motorcycle racing - and it fits right to the image offered by the Selfmademan. More than 100 patents, processed in Honda's motorcycles, protect inventions and constructions of himself. And when it is said that most of the employees in his nine-storey administration building only know him from pictures - it is because they don't see him there: his headquarters are in his development work, where he is found either on the drawing board or, with a piece of tools in his hand, in one of the workshops.
We are far from seeing Mr. Honda's views of the future as a gospel - in some of them he can be as right as he is wrong. His argumentation is indisputable, that there is still a huge sales field for motorbikes and thus great economic and technical development possibilities. Honda sees them - and will use them.
Unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere. A leading man in a German company whose brand concept was not insignificantly influenced by motorcycle construction, recently said it quite bluntly:"I hate motorcycles! Do we still have to be surprised?