Look Out for Honda in 2007

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The founder of Honda Automobiles, Soichiro Honda, was born in 1906. He grew up helping his father repair bicycles in the little town of Komyo. At 16, he headed to Tokyo, 270 kilometers away, to take an apprenticeship at an automobile repair shop. He took up racing and, after a violent crash, he was convinced by his wife to retire from the sport. The repair business alone was not enough to keep him occupied. This restlessness led to his venture into piston ring manufacturing in 1937.

By the early 1950s, Honda had developed into an engine manufacturer. Honda's inventive spirit led the company to develop class-leading engines for Japan's motorcycle industry. Honda met Takeo Fujisawa by chance in 1948. The two men shared a desire for long-term investment, a rare trait in post-war Japan. They agreed to work together; Fujisawa invested his money and took on the marketing responsibilities and Honda continued on the technological side of the business. The Honda Motor Company was born in 1948.

Soichiro Honda did much of the market research for his products. This research went as far as traveling to races all over the world and examining the competition's motorcycles. Once a benchmark was set with a competitive product, Honda would take this information home and strive to top that mark. Honda's racing successes converted to sales successes. In 1959, Honda had topped the Japanese motorcycle sales chart with 285,000 units. Two years later, Honda was selling at rate of 100,000 units a MONTH!

Honda announced its intention to enter automobile production in the early 1960s and introduced the S360 sports car. When it was decided to begin exporting the Honda products, the United States was chosen as a key target. The first Honda motorcycles were introduced into the United States in 1959. By 1963, Honda was the top-selling brand of motorcycles in the United States. Today, Honda stands as the largest motorcycle manufacturer and the 9th largest automobile manufacturer in the world. With cars like the Civic S Hatchback, Prelude and Civic CRX, Honda became the first car maker to finish first, second and third in the Motor Trend Import Cars of the Year selections!

Here's a peek at what they have in store for the model year 2007:

2007 Honda Accord

The changes to the seventh-generation Accord will be most noticeable at night, when the multiple LEDs in the taillights and center high-mounted stop light (CHMSL) are readily apparent. The CHMSL has been moved from the rear window to the rear edge of the trunk, where it acts as a small spoiler. The rear fenders are changed slightly from earlier models, as has the grille and front bumper. Improvements to intake and exhaust airflow have enabled Honda to find a few more horsepower in both Accord engines. The silky-smooth 3.0-liter single overhead camshaft, 24-valve V6 is up four horsepower, for 244 at 6250 rpm, with maximum torque 211 lb-ft at 5000 rpm. Honda's VTEC variable valve lift and timing system ensures optimum performance at all engine speeds, and there is a very healthy midrange surge of torque that is best taken advantage of by the six-speed gearbox.

2007 Honda Element

The 2007 Element is available in two versions, the LX and the EX. Both the Element LX and EX come equipped with the same 166-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and new Drive-by-Wire electronic throttle control system, as well as a handy Maintenance Minder organizer whose name speaks for itself. With this seventh generation version, Honda will deliver a face-lifted SUV that features additional 10 horsepower, new five-speed automatic and a new set of standard safety equipment.

2007 Honda Fit

The 2007 Honda Fit is a triumph of creativity, proof that good ideas don't have to be expensive. Both trim levels for this front-drive, five-door hatchback (the Fit is offered in base and Sport trim) feature a 1.5-liter, 109-horsepower VTEC four-cylinder engine. Delivering 105 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm, it posted a 9.3 second, 0-60 mph sprint. As if anticipating safety concerns from U.S. buyers, Honda has provided two key features standard on both the base and Sport models. Both trim levels now come with four-wheel antilock brakes and side curtain airbags.

2007 Honda Ridgeline

Honda's pickup truck is a compact, five-passenger 4-dr crew cab with a 5-ft long cargo bed and standard all-wheel drive. Ridgeline has several design features unusual to pickups, including independent rear suspension and unibody construction. The tailgate drops down or swings out. The sole powertrain is a 255-hp V6 and a 5-speed automatic transmission. ABS and traction/antiskid control are standard. So are front side airbags and curtain side airbags that cover both seating rows and include rollover deployment. All models have front bucket seats and a 60/40 split rear bench with cushions that flip up to increase in-cab storage.

Soichiro Honda's unique leadership has allowed the Honda Motor Company to become a world power in the automotive fields. Mr. Honda's views went counter to the direction of his own government and yet his company has prospered. With innovation developed by Mr. Honda as a basis, the Honda Motor Company has become a technological force in the motorcycle and automobile industries in Asia, Europe, and North America.