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Soichiro Honda
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    (November 17, 1906-August 5, 1991)
    Born in Hamamatsu, Japan
    Founded Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (1948)
    President (1948-73)
    Supreme Advisor (1973-83)
    Had 150 patents
    Inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame (1989)
    He created a stamp to forge his family seal, which his school required on grade reports to make sure the parents had seen them.
    He then began forging seals for his classmates, and was caught because he had forgotten that the stamp would produce a mirror image. (This had not mattered with his own report cards since his family's name used symmetrical characters.)
    While out on the town as a bachelor in his 20s, he drove off a bridge with several geishas in his car. (Everyone survived.)
    He pawned his wife's jewelry to start a factory producing piston rings (1937).
    For a year after World War II, he made his living making and selling moonshine from a homemade still.
    Employees nicknamed him 'Mr. Thunderstorm' for his frequent emotional outbursts.
    He was married to Sachi Honda for 55 years.
    He was a race car driver until a high-speed crash hospitalized him for three months and left him with a permanent scar (1936).
    Little more than a decade after its founding, Honda had become the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles.
    He resisted pressure from the government bureaucracy to merge his company with an established automaker.
    He was an admirer of American business techniques.
    He promoted executives on the basis of performance rather than seniority, a then-unusual practice in Japanese companies.
    He encouraged Honda to become the first Japanese auto company to build a manufacturing plant in the US (1979).
    Even after his official retirement, he liked to visit the Honda research labs and inspect the newest innovations.
    He said, 'The worst kind of president is a person who eats in fancy restaurants, smoking a fat cigar and thinking well of himself while employees work in a dirty factory with their hands dirty.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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