Did you know that Kawasaki Motors is celebrating an important milestone in 2023? In September, Team Green will officially mark 70 years of manufacturing motorcycles for the world to ride. It all started back in 1953, when Kawasaki Machine Works first began manufacturing motorcycle engines shortly after the end of WWII.
If you’re in either the US or Japan, Kawasaki will be hosting special celebratory exhibitions in both countries beginning in September 2023. In the US, the exhibition will be held at the Kawasaki USA Heritage Hall in Foothill Ranch, California. For those in Japan, the exhibition will take place at the Kawasaki Good Times World in Kobe.
The US was a pivotal overseas market for Kawasaki, and this first exhibition will concentrate on the history of Kawasaki motorcycles within the US market. It all started in 1953, with the launch of the single-cylinder KE-1 motorcycle engine. Times were challenging, and sales did not achieve the level of success that Kawasaki had hoped for in the early years.
Gallery: Kawasaki Celebrates 70 Years Of Motorcycles In 2023
Eventually, by 1966, Kawasaki in Japan decided to try something new. Under the watchful eye of Yoji Hamawaki, Kawasaki established its subsidiary, American Kawasaki Motors. It recruited just 10 employees for that arm of the operation to start. Hamawaki, in turn, became American Kawasaki’s first president.
Recognizing what a different market existed in the US, Hamawaki’s operation concentrated on a policy of ‘localism,’ which led to US-focused model development of bikes including the A1 Samurai 250, H1 500 Mach III, and of course the iconic Z1 900.
By 1974, Kawasaki built a manufacturing plant in Lincoln, Nebraska that still stands today in 2023. It made history as the first manufacturing plant for any type of vehicle (motorcycle or automobile) to be built by a Japanese manufacturer in the US. Today, the plant produces Kawasaki Jet Skis, as well as side-by-sides—not motorcycles. Still, it’s an incredibly important part of both Kawasaki’s and America’s motorcycling history.
Since motorcycles have been around for well over a century now, we know all too well that many motorcycle manufacturers don’t get to make it to their 70th anniversary celebrations. Many an optimistic young company has had all the belief in the world, tried, and then unfortunately fallen by the wayside over the years.
We look forward to seeing how Kawasaki continues to develop its technologies in the 21st century. The integration of new technologies, such as Team Green’s upcoming electric and hydrogen projects, will be interesting to watch.