“We saw this little Honda car and we thought, ‘Oh that would be great,’ ” Lori Manly said. “At the time, our cars were big Buicks and great big cars. Because the motorcycles were very successful, people knew the [Honda] name, so it wasn’t completely out there.”
But the decision was not without risk given U.S. consumers’ initial hesitancy to accept a car that small and outfitted with an air-cooled 600cc motorcycle engine. The car had little acceleration, and Lori Manly recalls people laughed at it.
“When they showed a picture of it on the freeway with all these American cars, it surely looked like it was going to be crushed. But we took them on,” she said.
The Manlys’ daughter Rita Case worked at Honda of Santa Rosa (later changed to Manly Honda of Santa Rosa) beginning at age 10, and she drove an N600 back and forth to high school. The dealership sold its first N600 in 1970, with Rita then-Manly as a salesperson in the showroom.