Honda's Los Angeles presence holds long history

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- With Toyota packing up and moving to Texas, and Nissan having departed several years ago, Honda is now the largest motor company still operating in Southern California. In particular, the company has a long history in Los Angeles.

Honda started out very small, in every way.

"They came to Los Angeles, looked around, found this small building on Pico Boulevard, sent over a few people who actually ended up sleeping there, and American Honda was formed in 1959," said Ion Seidel of the American Honda Motor Co.

Their first product was the Honda Super Cub, a small-displacement motor bike. Prior to its arrival, motorcycles didn't always have the most positive image. But thanks to clever advertising and becoming part of pop culture -- the Beach Boys even wrote a song called "Go Little Honda" -- acceptance of the made in Japan motorcycles became more widespread.

Next, it was time to think bigger. Hondas grew and became more and more popular, eventually contributing to the demise the British motorcycle industry. They punctuated their dominance in various segments with the Gold Wing, which set a standard for touring bikes.

"And 40 years later, we're still making the Gold Wing. In fact, the 300 millionth unit that came off the assembly line in Japan, was a Gold Wing," said Seidel.

By the late 1960s, Honda had certainly established itself as a motorcycle brand in the U.S. And then they went into another direction, adding a couple more wheels, and a body. The Honda car was born.

The first ones were small, crude and basic. But then came the Civic, which arrived just in time for the energy crisis of the 1970s and has been a staple of the American road ever since.

Of course the company has had its troubles and flops over the years. Like other auto brands, Honda has recently been embroiled in the huge Takata airbag recall. And their four-door Insight tried to crack the dedicated hybrid market owned by the Toyota Prius. It even looked a bit like the Toyota. But sales were rather dismal, and it was recently discontinued.

The successes do overshadow the failures, and Honda presses on with some of the best-selling cars in the country. And they still sell plenty of motorcycles, too, just the way they did decades ago from that storefront on Pico Boulevard.

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