Published on February 13th, 2024 | by Subhash Nair


Here’s How Red Became Honda’s Official Colour

The colour red and Honda have been tied together for decades.

Honda Red, a colour synonymous with innovation and reliability, has a rich history deeply intertwined with Honda’s journey in the automotive and power equipment industries.

Honda S2000

In the 1960s, Japan’s strict regulations prohibited cars from being painted red or white. Red was limited to use by emergency vehicles. Plus, the Japanese government was putting rules in place that would have prohibited Honda from entering the automobile market. Undeterred by these limitations, Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda, spearheaded efforts to challenge these regulations.

The SPORTS 360, Japan’s first red car, was a testament to Honda’s determination to push boundaries. A prototype painted in reddish-orange captured Soichiro Honda’s imagination, leading to the adoption of red as a defining feature of Honda’s automotive identity. Soichiro Honda appealed through a newspaper column, writing:

“Red is a basic colour of design. How can they ban it by law? I have heard of no other top nations in the world in which the state monopolizes the use of colours.”

Eventually Honda got its way, though the Sports 360 never made it to production, being evolved to the S500 before hitting the market. But before their foray into four-wheeled vehicles, Honda had a storied history with bikes, tillers and power generation, where the colour red was important too.

Back in 1952, the company introduced the “Cub Type F”, which was essentially a motor and petrol tank that could be fitted onto a bike. The catch phrase for this product was “White tank, red engine” and this helped create Honda’s identity.

Another early Honda product was the F150 (not that F150) tiller, which was painted bright red. It too became extremely popular. Honda later entered the power generator market with the E300 (not that E300), a user-friendly, well-designed product with a cube-like body, which was a stark departure from generators of the time. This product too was coloured red as part of its design. Honda tillers and power generators continued to be coloured red.

Honda E300 power generator in red

In 2001, Honda officially designated red as its corporate colour. As Honda celebrates its 75th anniversary, the introduction of a Honda Red coloured pencil signifies a continuation of its heritage and values. It’s on sale in Japan for the equivalent of RM12. No word on whether Honda Malaysia is bringing this in.

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Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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