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Founder Soichiro Honda launched the company that bears his name by first producing engines for bicycles and motorcycles beginning in the late 1940s. Throughout the 1950s, Honda honed the craft that would make the company the largest motorcycle producer in the world, a title it has held since 1959.
At the Tokyo Motor Show in October 1962, Honda exhibited its first three car models and began production the following year. In 1968, Honda produced its 1300 series, a compact car and the forerunner for the Honda Accord.
In 1972, Honda had its low-pollution CVCC engine tested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, making it the first automotive engine to pass the 1975 regulations under the Muskie Act. That paved the way for the introduction of the subcompact Civic, which was the first Honda automobile model sold in the United States.
The second Honda model to arrive stateside was the Accord, a compact hatchback that went on sale in 1976. Both vehicles were powered by fuel efficient, low-emission four-cylinder engines, and both model lines are in production to this day.
The 1980s saw Honda expand its lineup further, adding a third model, the Prelude. That decade also saw Honda open its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Marysville, Ohio, with 10 more to follow.
As Honda strengthened its presence in the U.S., it also launched a premium brand, Acura in 1986. Until 1994, Honda maintained its three-vehicle model line, releasing various model styles, including the Civic Del Sol.
In 1994, the Honda Passport SUV hit the market, a model based on the Isuzu Rodeo. This medium-sized SUV was replaced in 2003 by the Honda Pilot, a vehicle offering room for up to seven.
The late 1990s also saw four more models released by Honda. These included the Honda CR-V — a small SUV, the Odyssey minivan, an S2000 roadster, and just before the new millennium, the hybrid Honda Insight.
In the 2000s, Honda canceled the Prelude and introduced the Element, a multi-purpose vehicle. Additional hybrid models and the Honda Ridgeline truck also came to the market.
In more recent years, Honda has expanded its product line to include the CR-Z hybrid, the Accord Crosstour, the subcompact Fit and a third SUV model, the Honda HR-V.
Honda is a mainstream brand and counts Toyota, Ford, Nissan, and Chevrolet among its top competitors. Honda also competes with Dodge, Subaru, Volkswagen, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Hyundai.