Kawasaki Celebrating 70 Years Of Making Motorcycles – Roadracing World Magazine

Kawasaki Celebrates 70 Years of Motorcycles

Milestones through the Decades

Foothill Ranch, Calif. – In September of 2023, Kawasaki Motors celebrates its 70th anniversary of making motorcycles, first making its forays into the motorcycle business in 1953. After the end of World War II, Kawasaki produced motorcycle engines under the name of “Kawasaki Machine Works.” Since then, Kawasaki has continued to Let the Good Times Roll® and has strived to share “Fun to Ride” motorcycles with our customers around the world. Today, Kawasaki motorcycles are sold in more than 90 countries and regions.

To commemorate Kawasaki Motorcycles’ 70-year anniversary, a special exhibition will be held at Kawasaki USA Heritage Hall in Foothill Ranch, California as well as Kawasaki Good Times World in Kobe, Japan starting in September 2023. The display will focus on the history of the motorcycle business in the U.S. market, which marked a major turning point in Kawasaki’s overseas strategy. It will be the first in a series of events to commemorate this special anniversary.

Working toward upholding our mission statement of “Working for the happiness and joy of all those whose lives Kawasaki touches,” Kawasaki aims to keep moving forward and growing into the future.



A 1953 Kawasaki KE-1 motorcycle engine. Photo courtesy Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.
A 1953 Kawasaki KE-1 motorcycle engine. Photo courtesy Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.


Kawasaki’s Motorcycle Business in the U.S. Market

Kawasaki’s path to success in the motorcycle industry, which began with the launch of the KE-1 motorcycle engine in 1953, was not a smooth one. Several efforts were made to try to expand sales, including working with trading companies to expand to overseas markets, in addition to a business alliance and subsequent merger with the Meguro Manufacturing Company. However, each of these efforts failed to produce the sales results that Kawasaki had hoped for.

It was decided that selling directly to dealers would be the better business model, so in 1966 American Kawasaki Motors was established. Kawasaki’s US operations began with only 10 employees and adopted an innovative policy of “localism” before going on to develop motorcycles like the Kawasaki A1 Samurai 250, Kawasaki H1 500 Mach III and iconic Kawasaki Z1 900 for the U.S. market. Early on, Kawasaki USA launched a new kind of sales policy aimed at expansion that included the industry’s first model year system and worked to strengthen relationships with dealers by setting up branches in every region of the U.S., thereby consolidating its base in the U.S. market.


A 1968 Kawasaki H1 500 Mach III. Photo courtesy Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.
A 1968 Kawasaki H1 500 Mach III. Photo courtesy Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.


In 1974, Kawasaki made a $20 million investment to build a manufacturing plant in Lincoln, Nebraska to be in-line with a coming shift to a floating exchange rate in the U.S. Kawasaki’s Lincoln plant became the first plant built by any Japanese auto or motorcycle manufacturer in the U.S., and it remains Kawasaki’s main plant to this day. It is where all Kawasaki Jet Ski® personal watercrafts and side x sides including the Teryx® and MULE™ are still manufactured today.


A 1972 Kawasaki Z1 900. Photo courtesy Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.
A 1972 Kawasaki Z1 900. Photo courtesy Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.


Along with this year marking the 70th anniversary of Kawasaki Motorcycles, two other well-known brands in the U.S. market the KX™ and Jet Ski® brand will mark their 50-year anniversaries, while next year the American-born Ninja® brand will mark its 40th anniversary.



Kawasaki started full-scale production of motorcycles over a half century ago. The first Kawasaki motorcycle engine was designed based on technical know-how garnered from the development and production of aircraft engines, and Kawasaki’s entry into the motorcycle industry was driven by the company’s constant effort to develop new technologies. Numerous new Kawasaki models introduced over the years have helped shape the market, and in the process have created enduring legends based on their unique engineering, power, design and riding pleasure. In the future, Kawasaki Motors, Ltd. is committed to maintaining and furthering these strengths which will surely give birth to new legends.

Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (KMC) markets and distributes Kawasaki motorcycles, ATVs, side x sides, and JET SKI® watercraft through a network of approximately 1,100 independent retailers, with close to an additional 7,700 retailers specializing in general purpose engines. KMC and its affiliates employ nearly 3,100 people in the United States, with approximately 260 of them located at KMC’s Foothill Ranch, California headquarters.

Kawasaki’s tagline, “Let the Good Times Roll.®”, is recognized worldwide. The Kawasaki brand is synonymous with powerful, stylish and category-leading vehicles. Information about Kawasaki’s complete line of powersports products and Kawasaki affiliates can be found on the Internet at www.kawasaki.com