Kawasaki is a multi-national corporation with more than fifty holdings (manufacturing plants, distribution centres, and marketing and sales headquarters) in most major cities around the world.
Business interests include environmental control and energy plant engineering, machinery and robotics, ship building and marine engineering, power plant engineering and steel structures, rolling stock, aerospace, and of course, ATVs, motorcycles, Side x Side vehicles and personal watercraft. Like all companies, Kawasaki began with a dream and grew into the great corporation it is today.
The origins of Kawasaki date to 1878, when Shozo Kawasaki founded the Kawasaki Tsukiji Shipyard in Tokyo, Japan, where new technological innovations were being created for the shipping industry.
Shozo had been interested in the marine industry from an early age, which is why he wanted to get involved in producing modern innovations for Japan’s shipping industry. It wasn’t until 1878, after struggling for some time, that the first order was placed with his company.
The business moved to Hyogo in 1886 and was renamed Kawasaki Dockyard Co., Ltd., as it continued to grow and demand for shipping rose. By 1906, the products Kawasaki manufactured began growing beyond the shipping industry. The company would eventually produce components for the automotive, railway and aviation sectors.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that Kawasaki dipped its toes into the motorcycle industry, when it produced its first bike in 1962. It soon merged with the Meguro Manufacturing Co. to form Kawasaki Motorcycle Co., Ltd., in 1963.
Kawasaki Aircraft initially manufactured motorcycles under the Meguro name, having bought an ailing motorcycle manufacturer, Meguro Manufacturing with whom they had been in partnership. This eventually became Kawasaki Motor Sales. Some early motorcycles display an emblem with “Kawasaki Aircraft” on the fuel tank.
Work continued on the Meguro K1, a copy of the BSA A7 500 cc vertical twin. and on the Kawasaki W1. The K2 was exported to the US for a test in response to the expanding American market for four-stroke motorcycles. At first it was rejected for a lack of power. By the mid-1960s, Kawasaki was finally exporting a moderate number of motorcycles. The Kawasaki H1 Mach III in 1968, along with several enduro-styled motorcycles to compete with Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda, increased sales of Kawasaki units.
Launches H1 motorcycle. Following the Kawasaki W series, Japan’s largest motorcycle of the day, which initiated the big bike boom, the Company introduced an epoch-making new model, the H1 (2-stroke, 3-cylinder, 498 cm3) in 1969.
Unveils Z1 motorcycle. In 1972, the Company unveiled Japan’s largest motorcycle of the day, the Kawasaki Z1, featuring an air-cooled, 4-stroke, 4-cylinder, 903 cm3, DOHC engine, which was Kawasaki’s first 4-stroke engine with a state-of-the-art, unique mechanism.
1974 saw the establishment of a Kawasaki assembly facility in Lincoln, Nebraska, US, named the American Kawasaki Motors Corporation (KMC), to complete Japan-produced components into finished motorcycles for the North American market.
In 1984, GPz900R – known as the Ninja in the U.S., the GPz900R was named “Bike of the Year” by publications around the world. The model featured the first liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine and a unique look that set it apart from other bikes in the industry.
In 2000 Ninja ZX-12R – the newest Ninja became the flagship on the model of the brand and featured the first mass-produced aluminum monocoque frame.
In 2006 ZZR1400 – also known as the Ninja ZX-14 in North America, the sport bike was touted as the most powerful ever produced by Kawasaki. Able to reach 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, the bike balanced performance and handling.
In 2011, Ninja ZX-10R – this was the first complete redesign of the ZX-10R since its initial release in 2004. It featured a new engine and frame, among other upgrades.
In 2014, Z1000 – the fourth generation Z1000 debuted with a new look and feel. Upgrades included a new SFF-BP front suspension and increased direct response from the engine and chassis.
Today, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. (KHI) is engaged in building transportation systems for the 21st century, and in doing so, is utilizing the wealth of technological know-how it has accumulated over the past 120 years. The ship building division has led the world in producing ever larger, ever faster, increasingly automated ships. It is constantly striving to find ways to increase ship manufacturing and navigation efficiency while conserving energy. So far, the quest has resulted in the development
of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) carriers, high-speed ships and other future-oriented marine technologies.