Just to show how screwed-up a good thing can get when greed and dishonesty get in the way, consider three of Honda's brightest lights in 1986: Jack Billmyer, Rick Hendrick and Frank Borman.
Jack Billmyer, a 6-foot-4-inch stock car enthusiast, helped create the Honda retail network in the 1970s. He stoked Honda's business through the 1980s as its brusque and free-wheeling head of automotive sales. He attempted to retire in 1985, only to be pulled back to head up one more special project — signing up Honda dealers to launch a franchise called Acura.
Rick Hendrick's fortunes as an auto dealer moved as fast as his unbeatable NASCAR racing teams. His popularity around the South helped him build Hendrick Automotive into the largest auto retail group in America in an era before AutoNation and Sonic.
Frank Borman — that's Colonel Frank Borman — was an American hero, a multimission astronaut who flew Apollo 8 into the human race's first penetration of the dark side of the moon. He had run Eastern Airlines during troubled times and was the sort of iconic leader whose affiliation as a New Mexico Honda dealer brought the brand prestige and an all-American identity.
But just 10 years later, Billmyer would be serving a five-year prison sentence, convicted in what federal prosecutors called a nationwide racketeering scheme involving dealer kickbacks and factory fraud.
Hendrick would plead guilty to criminal charges and be stripped of management control of his retailing empire.
And Honda's American hero, Frank Borman, would end up leading an aggrieved army of dealers who sued Honda, demanding restitution for more than a decade of dishonesty and lost opportunity.
Borman's lawsuit would become the anchor complaint in a dealer class-action suit that would cost Honda $390 million to settle.