EDITOR'S NOTE: A photograph with this story has been removed. It was not the dealership described in the caption.
LOS ANGELES -- The idea seemed almost ludicrous to Tom Elliott back in 1982, but there it was in black and white on Honda Motor Co.'s strategic product plan.
Elliott's bosses in Japan had decided to sell a car priced at more than $20,000 in the United States, taking the Japanese brand dramatically upscale. And Elliott, Honda's U.S. sales boss, had less than four years to prepare.
Even though Honda had been selling vehicles in America since 1959 -- first motorcycles, then the tiny S600 hatchback -- it had been barely a decade since moving into mainstream cars with the subcompact Civic. And its 1982 Accord, which is smaller than the Civic is today, was only in its second generation, with an 86-hp engine. Its starting price was $7,399, or about $16,500 in today's money.
While Honda was manufacturing motorcycles in Ohio, it hadn't yet started production of cars in the United States.
But executives in Japan were dead serious about offering a mid-sized luxury sedan, including a V-6 version by 1986 -- not to mention a supercar arriving in 1988 that would be filled with Formula 1 racing technology.
In 1982, Elliott sat down with American Honda President Yoshihide Munekuni and sales boss Cliff Schmillen to draw up a plan that was as audacious as the cars they planned to sell. It was tentatively called Channel Two, and it would be the first new automotive brand on American shores in more than two decades.
"We didn't think the Honda reputation for economical, low-priced, reliable family cars would spread wide enough to cover expensive sporty cars," Elliott recalls.