Kawasaki Celebrates 70 Years Of Making Motorcycles
Milestones through the decades
Some cool historical moments from Kawasaki.
Begin press release:
In September of 2023, Kawasaki Motors celebrates its 70th anniversary of making motorcycles, first making its forays into the motorcycle business in 1953. After the end of World War II, Kawasaki produced motorcycle engines under the name of “Kawasaki Machine Works.” Since then, Kawasaki has continued to Let the Good Times Roll and has strived to share “Fun to Ride” motorcycles with our customers around the world. Today, Kawasaki motorcycles are sold in more than 90 countries and regions.
To commemorate Kawasaki Motorcycles’ 70-year anniversary, a special exhibition will be held at Kawasaki USA Heritage Hall in Foothill Ranch, California as well as Kawasaki Good Times World in Kobe, Japan starting in September 2023. The display will focus on the history of the motorcycle business in the U.S. market, which marked a major turning point in Kawasaki's overseas strategy. It will be the first in a series of events to commemorate this special anniversary.
Working toward upholding our mission statement of “Working for the happiness and joy of all those whose lives Kawasaki touches,” Kawasaki aims to keep moving forward and growing into the future.
Kawasaki’s Motorcycle Business in the U.S. Market
Kawasaki’s path to success in the motorcycle industry, which began with the launch of the KE-1 motorcycle engine in 1953, was not a smooth one. Several efforts were made to try to expand sales, including working with trading companies to expand to overseas markets, in addition to a business alliance and subsequent merger with the Meguro Manufacturing Company. However, each of these efforts failed to produce the sales results that Kawasaki had hoped for.
It was decided that selling directly to dealers would be the better business model, so in 1966 American Kawasaki Motors was established. Kawasaki’s US operations began with only 10 employees and adopted an innovative policy of “localism” before going on to develop motorcycles like the Kawasaki A1 Samurai 250, Kawasaki H1 500 Mach III and iconic Kawasaki Z1 900 for the U.S. market. Early on, Kawasaki USA launched a new kind of sales policy aimed at expansion that included the industry's first model year system and worked to strengthen relationships with dealers by setting up branches in every region of the U.S., thereby consolidating its base in the U.S. market.
In 1974, Kawasaki made a $20 million investment to build a manufacturing plant in Lincoln, Nebraska to be in- line with a coming shift to a floating exchange rate in the U.S. Kawasaki’s Lincoln plant became the first plant built by any Japanese auto or motorcycle manufacturer in the U.S., and it remains Kawasaki’s main plant to this day. It is where all Kawasaki Jet Ski personal watercrafts and side x sides including the Teryx® and MULETM are still manufactured today.
Along with this year marking the 70th anniversary of Kawasaki Motorcycles, two other well-known brands in the U.S. market the KXTM and Jet Ski brand will mark their 50-year anniversaries, while next year the American- born Ninja brand will mark its 40th anniversary.