The Honda Cub is the world’s bestselling motorcycle, and for good reason: it’s versatile, lightweight and powerful enough to be used for a wide range of purposes. Nearly 60 years after Honda first began producing the Cub, it has become an iconic symbol of the 20th century, on par with the Ford Model T, VW Beetle and Jeep. As of 2014, there have been 87 million of these vehicles sold worldwide in 160 different countries.
And, yet, when the Honda Cub first launched in Japan in 1958, there were serious doubts as to whether anyone would actually buy one. The dominant thinking was that a consumer might buy a small car or a large motorcycle, but not a small motorcycle. It was a completely new category, and one that disrupted the entire automotive world.
Things really took off, of course, when Honda starting selling the Honda Cub in the United States in 1959. The stateside team decided they needed a punchy new advertising slogan for the vehicle, and they came up with one of the most famous advertising lines in history: “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” Print ads showed well-dressed middle class people riding around cities and neighborhoods on the Honda Cub.
Business schools around the world now use that advertising campaign, which lasted from 1963-1975, as an iconic example of “lifestyle marketing.” Honda wasn’t just marketing a vehicle – the Cub – it was marketing a whole new way of living. The whole advertising campaign was meant to contrast the Cub to bigger motorbikes, like those from U.S. rival Harley Davidson. Unlike the “bad boys” who rode Harleys, people who rode Cubs were “nice.”
And from there, the success of the Honda Cub has been phenomenal, spreading around the world. Across social media, you’ll see people using the Honda Cub (now known as the Super Cub) in all kinds of unique ways. In Vietnam, the Honda Super Cub is the unofficial motorcycle taxi of the nation. Across Latin America and Asia, you’ll see photos of the Super Cub hauling cargo, delivering mail, and making pizza deliveries.
In 2014, the Daily Telegraph in the UK called the Super Cub “the best motorcycle in the world.” The motorcycle may only have modest power, and it may be tricky to pull off an emergency stop, but it’s clear that this motorcycle completely changed the way we think about transportation. It literally invented a whole new category, somewhere between an urban scooter and a full-size motorcycle.
The good news is that you still meet the nicest people on a Honda. The company continues to crank out millions of these wonderful machines, with the Super Cub 50 released in 2007, the Super Cub 110 released in 2009 and the Dream 110i released in 2011. And now comes possibly the most innovative of all of these models – a fully electric-powered Cub. In May 2016, Honda announced that the EV-Cub could be hitting global markets as soon as 2018. That’s exciting news for Cub enthusiasts, who continue to celebrate the more than 50-year heritage of this amazing vehicle.
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