The President and Owner of Tarrytown Honda recently concluded an eventful three-year term as Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Northeast chapter of the international company.
The stint comprised regular trips to California to report on issues to corporate executives and concluded more recently with a trip to the "mother ship" in Japan.
As Dwight Dachnowicz, who Patch profiled in 2011, expected, the trip was laden with culture and company. As a man who grew up loving Hondas (the only car he’s ever owned) and spent his adult life selling them, he said he learned more about the “Honda way” than he ever imagined.
“It certainly was very impressive,” he said of the trip. Among many culture shocks, he found himself most surprised by how interested the Japanese leaders were in the U.S. market, “how it rallied after 2008, and particularly in the northeast.”
Dachnowicz said this region is America’s strongest, with people perhaps more “receptive to the Honda brand” than they might be in regions even as close as Pittsburgh where American-made begins to dominate.
Another factor in the Northeast is “we don’t necessarily drive as much but we still need a car,” which makes Hondas attractive as they are so amenable to leasing. He attributes this to the high resale value as the cars don’t depreciate to as a great degree as other makes might.
Blame this too for the high attractiveness Honda, particularly the Accord, seems to have to thieves, who are able to easily resell coveted parts.
But back to Japan, where even the crash test center was, in a word, “amazing,” Dachnowicz said, stunned by “all that they put into crashing cars.”
About halfway through each day, officials would take the seven or eight corporate visitors on a bus off to some remote location “and basically indoctrinate us about the Japanese culture.” By this, he meant how it intersects with company culture, and what goes into the Honda brand.
There was so much he said he found himself wanting to teach his twin seven-year-old sons about when he got home – honor, respect, pride.
And, of course, engineering. “It’s amazing how engineering is such a core element in their company.”
Motorcycles are where Honda began and remain a large part of their production. In fact, Dachnowicz found himself surprised by the arrival of the CEO one morning, showing up five minutes late for a meeting (probably surprising in and of itself in such a punctual place) in a white assembly-worker-like coat and rolling in on a motorcycle.
The huge earthquake several years ago affected many assembly plants in the region and Honda suffered a few worker fatalities, but in the midst of all the ruin and chaos, their leader made his rounds on his motorcycle.
Dachnowicz visited various Honda plants, testing centers, even a number of racetracks. In all, he witnessed also a great concern for the environment and using recycled products.
“They really have put a lot of thought into zero-emission assembly plants, zero waste," he said.
Here at home, small-car manufacturing is happening at an Ohio plant and a small-car plant is under construction in Mexico, where the newest Honda Fit subcompact and new urban SUV will be built.
And of course, there’s Tarrytown’s "green" Honda dealership plans, which have been before the board for ages, but Dachnowicz sees an end in sight and remains hopeful they will rebuild soon.
“I hope it will be wrapped up shortly,” he said, saying with two variances to change one house from residential to commercial zoning and the side street to commercial, the plans could finally be approved and construction could proceed on a new, very Honda-culture-steeped dealership at last.