Back in February 2023, we shared the news that Honda Motor co-founder Takeo Fujisawa was going to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame later in the year. On July 20, 2023, the official ceremony was held at the Fillmore Detroit to give Soichiro Honda’s right-hand man his due at last.
Honda Motor Company Limited chairman Seiji Kuraishi was on hand to accept the award on behalf of Fujisawa’s family, as well as company members worldwide. Honda Motors wouldn’t be what it is today without the unique partnership between Fujisawa and Honda, who each brought their own complementary strengths to both their friendship and their business partnership.
Soichiro Honda was (and is) rightfully known as the Honda mastermind—but it’s equally important to realize that he didn’t do it alone. Before he had a team of engineers and employees behind him, there was Fujisawa. The two met in 1949, just a single year after Honda Motor Company was originally founded. While Honda (the man) held down the engineering side, Fujisawa took responsibility for the business side. Marketing, sales, finance—things that were arguably less exciting, but still utterly essential.
Gallery: Honda co-founder Takeo Fujisawa inducted into Automotive Hall of Fame
Those early years established Honda and Fujisawa’s working relationship, but their combined forces are also what turned the Super Cub into the best-selling motorbike of all time worldwide. The project took Honda’s engineering skills, but it also took Fujisawa’s recognition that while European-style scooters worked well in Europe, any two-wheeled form of mass transportation that Honda built would need bigger wheels to cope with rough rural roads in Japan.
Fujisawa’s influence would expand even further. It was he who decided that taking on the unique challenge of selling motorcycles in the US was something that Honda Motor Company should do. Thus, American Honda was born as Honda Motor’s first-ever outpost outside of Japan.
As American Honda rose to sell incredible amounts of small motorcycles in a tough market that had previously favored bigger bikes, Fujisawa’s business sense proved him right. Later on, it was also Fujisawa’s idea to split Honda Research and Development into its own entity, which the company says is a large part of why it evolved the way that it did.
In 1973, both Honda and Fujisawa retired. In 1989, Fujisawa died of a heart ailment at a hospital in Tokyo, at the age of 78. That same year, Soichiro Honda was formally inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame—and in so doing, became the first Japanese automotive executive to receive that honor.
This video offers a heartfelt glimpse into what made Fujisawa and Honda’s partnership so powerful. There’s a story in the video about how Honda took his newly won award to Fujisawa’s graveside and reportedly said words to the effect of, “this is for both of us.”
At last, in 2023, it is.