Honda at 40: Company, original employee grew together

By Jim Weiker from The Columbus Dispatch at When Honda celebrated its 40th anniversary in Ohio this week, the milestone carried special meaning for employee Neil Vining. Vining was 22 in 1979 when he landed a job at a new motorcycle factory Honda was opening in Marysville. Today, Vining is a chief engineer at Honda. He is one of two employees still at Honda who were there when Honda of America opened its first U.S. operation in Ohio. Vining’s journey with Honda is an illustration of the company’s journey. Like many Americans, Vining didn’t know what to expect from the company. By the 1970s, Japanese cars and motorcycles were well-established among consumers, but not among employees. Vining worked at Tecumseh’s Marion factory but was weary of the laid-off, back-to-work cycle of the plant. (Tecumseh closed the factory in 1984.) He was curious about Honda, which he had followed in the newspaper since the manufacturer announced in October 1977 that it would build a factory in Ohio. “Every week I watched the paper looking for that final notice about when I could send my application,” said Vining, who had bought his first Honda motorcycle when he was 16. In March, 1979, he had his chance and interviewed for a position, not knowing what to expect. After all, there was no track record of Japanese automotive manufacturers in the U.S. “Remember that the Japanese automotive industry was initially considered a curiosity. They made econoboxes no one wanted,” said Giorgio Rizzoni, director of the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State University. “Then they became real competitors to Detroit. For a long time, there was quite a bit of resentment in regard to Japanese automakers in the U.S. But Honda managed this transition in an extremely elegant way.” Three months after he […]

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