In addition to the Japanese Big Four (Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha), the list of the best-selling motorcycle manufacturers includes companies based in Italy, the USA, Austria and the UK.
The Japanese brand Honda is known as one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers. The success of the company is largely due to the daring genius of its founder Soichiro Honda, an inventor, engineer and passionate racing lover.
Soichiro was born in 1906. Since childhood, he helped his father, who was engaged in the repair and sale of bicycles. Further, the engineering career of the future founder of Honda continued in the capital’s auto repair shop. Its owner immediately noted the talent of the worker and entrusted him to assemble a racing car, which became the winner in the competition. Soichiro Honda himself participated in several races, which instilled in him a lifelong passion for motorcycle and motorsports.
In 1928, Soichiro opened his first repair shop and received his first patent for using metal spokes instead of wooden spokes in wheels. Soon the Honda engineer became famous for his ability to find simple solutions to complex problems.
In 1937, Honda founds Tokai Seiki Heavy Industry, which manufactures the piston rings he invented. After the Second World War, it was almost completely destroyed, and Soichiro Honda sells the surviving remains to the automaker Toyota. With the proceeds of 450,000 yen, he founded the Honda Technical Research Institute, which he renamed the Honda Motor Company in 1948.
The first line of work of the new enterprise was the installation of small motors from gasoline generators left after the war on bicycles. Such a vehicle was popular among the population, who could not fork out for something more presentable. The bikes are known as the Honda Model A.
Honda’s motorcycle division sells more than 15 million motorcycles annually, making it the world’s leading manufacturer. One of the factors driving the company’s sales is its popularity in the Asian markets. But Honda also dominates in North America.
Ducati motorcycles are produced by an Italian company located in the city of Bologna. Ducati Motor Holding SpA is part of the German automaker Audi AG. The company was founded in 1926 in Bologna by Antonio Ducati and his three sons Adriano, Marcello and Bruno. Initially, the company was engaged in the manufacture of radio equipment.
In the 1930s, the business flourished as the demand for radios, optical sights, loudspeakers and horns grew in pre-war Europe. The venture was so successful that Ducati began building a new factory. Despite the devastating bombing raids, production was maintained during World War II. However, after its completion, the demand for radio equipment decreased significantly, and the company was nationalized by the state.
To load production, the management decided to launch the production of vehicles. The choice fell on small and inexpensive bicycle motors designed by Aldo Farinelli and sold under the Siata brand. The engineer’s firm could not cope with the growing demand, therefore, at the suggestion of the government, Farinelli sells a license for the manufacture of Ducati engines, and he returns to his favorite business – the creation and tuning of sports cars.
So, velomobiles called Cucciolo began to appear, which means “puppy” in translation. They were equipped with a 50 cc engine and favorably differed from competitors with good traction at low revs, which was convenient in the mountainous terrain of Italy.
The Italian brand, headquartered in Bologna, has been making motorcycles since 1935. Ducati is known for its powerful sports bikes. The company has a long and successful racing history that began in 1951. Today it spends over 7% of its earnings on racing. The brand belongs to Audi through its subsidiary Lamborghini.
Harley-Davidson is perhaps the most famous motorcycle manufacturer in the world. The company, which has become legendary, has managed to create a separate culture, at the epicenter of which are its reliable and in many ways revolutionary motorcycles.
Harley-Davidson is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Its history began in 1901, when 21-year-old William Harley designed a small motor for a bicycle. For two years he and his friend Arthur Davidson worked on the creation of a motorized bicycle, which was published under the name Harley in 1903.
The bike was designed for racing. It was assembled in a small shed with an ambitious “Harley-Davidson Motor Company” sign. Engineer Walter Davidson, Arthur’s brother, also joined the work. However, their brainchild was not distinguished by either a reliable design or a decent power reserve: it was impossible to climb a hill without the help of pedals. So the Harleys and Davidsons decided to design a real motorcycle.
In the same 1903, the first successful sample appears. He received a 3-horsepower engine with a volume of 405 cm3. with an automatic intake valve and a reinforced frame, at the bottom of which there was a loop-shaped bend, which allows the engine to be placed low, thereby lowering the center of gravity. The design of the first motorcycle did not change for several years.
The motors quickly diverged, and by the beginning of 1950 more than 50% of motorized bicycles were installed. Inspired by the success, the brothers set a more ambitious goal: the release of a real motorcycle and the conquest of the country’s motor market.
In 1952, the Cruiser model appeared, which was equipped with a 175 cc horizontally located single-cylinder overhead valve four-stroke engine with an output of 8 hp. In addition, the motorcycle received an electric starter and an automatic transmission.
The motorcycle was so technologically advanced that the public simply could not appreciate it. Sales were slow. Within two years, several thousand units of the model were manufactured, and then its production ceased.
The rich history of the 20th and 21st centuries and the exciting riding experience give Harley-Davidson the status of a legendary bicycle company. This brand is known to almost everyone, even those who have never ridden a bike in their life.
The Japanese company Yamaha Motor is the world’s most famous motorcycle manufacturer headquartered in the city of Iwata. Its model line includes sports motorcycles, cruisers, motocross bikes, streetfighters, sport-tourer motorcycles. Yamaha is the second largest motorcycle manufacturer in Japan in terms of production after Honda Motor Company. Its bikes are appreciated all over the world due to their excellent handling, reliability and original design.
In addition to motorcycles, the company manufactures scooters, motorized bicycles, boats, jet skis, boats, outboard motors, all-terrain vehicles, engines, electric generators, water pumps, snowmobiles, drones, electric powertrains for wheelchairs and equipment. Initially, it was part of the Yamaha Corporation, the largest manufacturer of musical instruments.
The founder of Yamaha Corporation, Taraguchi Yamaha, was born into the family of an astronomer. From childhood, he was addicted to studying the mechanism of mechanisms and studied watchmaking. A talented watchmaker, Yamaha over time began to receive orders not only to repair watches and chronometers, but also complex medical equipment. After some time, he was asked to repair the reed organ. Fascinated by his work, Yamaha studied the structure of the instrument in every detail and decided to create his own analogue. After the first unsuccessful attempt, he becomes a student at the Institute of Musical Research, seriously studying musical theory and instrument tuning methods. Hard work paid off, and Yamaha began to make musical instruments, creating the Yamaha Organ Works in 1889.
In 1897, he founded the Nippon Gakki company, whose logo is three tuning forks and the figure of a Chinese phoenix. Already in 1890, it became the largest manufacturer of musical instruments in the world.
In 1916, Taraguchi Yamaha dies, but the business he founded continues to live under the control of the elected presidents of the company.
During World War II, Nippon Gakki, as a skilled woodworking enterprise, was repurposed to produce products for the war effort. It was not musical instruments, but wooden propellers for military aircraft. After the war, the Japanese economy is in decline, aircraft manufacturers have switched to using metal propellers, and the impoverished population shows little interest in musical instruments. The company’s management is looking for ways to diversify production. Thus begins the story of the Yamaha Motor Company, which split from the parent company to produce motorcycles.
It is worth noting that by the mid-1950s, when Yamaha decided to start producing motorcycles, about 150 motorcycle manufacturers were competing in the Japanese market. The leader among them, of course, was the Honda Motor Company, whose head, Soichiro Honda, bought his piano from Yamaha.
Yamaha Motorcycle Division was founded on June 1, 1955. The company had 274 employees, 30 million yen of start-up capital, and an enterprise with a monthly output of 200 units. In retrospect, Jenishi Kawakami, then president of Nippon Gakki, recalled that during the founding of Yamaha Motor Company, his company felt some financial freedom, and he felt the need to expand the area of business. Alternatives to musical instruments included sewing machines, auto parts, three-wheeled trucks, scooters, and motorcycles. Jenishi Kawakami did not want to enter an unfamiliar market without gaining sufficient knowledge, so he, along with managers and chief engineers, repeatedly visited the United States and Germany before starting to develop the first 125cc motorcycle.
“If you’re going to do something, then do the best you can” was the motto of the developers of the first Yamaha motorcycle. After 10 months of design, the first model was created – Yamaha YA-1, also called the “Red Dragonfly”. In many ways, it resembled the German motorcycle DKW RT125, but surpassed it in terms of technical characteristics. So, instead of a three-speed gearbox in a Japanese motorcycle, a four-speed was used. The model was equipped with a 125 cc two-stroke single-cylinder engine with 5.6 hp. air cooled. To ensure its quality meets the requirements of the highest class, the YA-1 passed through an unprecedented endurance test, covering 10,000 km.
Yamaha bikes are known for excellent performance, ride quality and comparative ease of use. Yamaha is almost as successful as another famous Japanese manufacturer, Honda. Additionally, the number of dirt bikes sold exceeds that of Honda and Yamaha combined.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. is one of the largest industrial companies in the world headquartered in Kobe and Tokyo, Japan. At the time of its creation, its main activity was shipbuilding. Now the concern is engaged in the manufacture of aircraft, helicopters, industrial robots, jet skis, tractors, trains, engines, weapons, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.
Despite the fact that the production of motorcycles is not the main focus of the company, the models released by it in many ways set high standards for all other manufacturers. Now Kawasaki Heavy Industries is one of the four largest motorcycle manufacturers in Japan and supplies its products worldwide.
The history of the company began in 1878, when Shozo Kawasaki founded a small shipyard. Prior to that, he worked at the shipyard, studied the intricacies of merchant ships, was engaged in the transportation of sugar, explored various sea routes. Then he decided to open his own shipyard.
In 1896 Shozo Kawasaki founded Kawasaki Heavy Industries. With the support of the Minister of Finance of Japan, by the end of the 19th century, it occupies a leading position among shipbuilders and sugar transporters to Japan. In 1901, the company mastered railway construction, and later civil. Already in the second decade of the 20th century, Kawasaki, which became a large company, was engaged in steel production, and later in aircraft construction and the manufacture of motors and electric generators.
With the beginning of the Japanese-Chinese war, the company receives many orders for the repair of ships, which has the most beneficial effect on its financial condition. After the end of the war, Shozo Kawasaki, who at that time was 66 years old, appoints the first president of Kawasaki, Kojiro Matsukata. He led the firm for 32 years. Matsukata introduced a number of transformations, in particular, he was the first in the country to establish an 8-hour working day, enlarged the company and brought it to the leaders of Japan’s heavy industry.
During World War II, Kawasaki is the main supplier to the army, but the surrender and dropping of atomic bombs put it in a difficult financial situation. All departments of the company underwent reconstruction.
The renaissance begins in 1950, when the management decides to develop small engines for installation on bicycles. This was done by the Kawasaki aircraft factory, which had at its disposal highly qualified personnel, materials and equipment. Unable to produce aircraft, since the release of aircraft was prohibited in capitulated Japan, the aviation department switched to the production of spare parts for motorcycles and small motors.
In the mid-1950s, there were about 150 players in the Japanese small vehicle market. The population needed cheap and reliable means of transportation, and public transport could not cope with the huge influx of passengers. Kawasaki’s first developments were two- and four-stroke engines that were installed on Noris bikes. Over time, the company realizes that the production of spare parts and engines does not have good prospects. Therefore, the production of two-wheeled vehicles begins.
In 1954, Kawasaki produces 200 scooters under the name Bikescooter KV-2. Soon the company buys out the bankrupt motorcycle manufacturer Meguro Manufacturing Co. Ltd, with which it used to be in partnership. Even before the war, Meguro produced motorcycles under the Meihatsu brand and was one of the few Japanese manufacturers to manufacture motorcycles with an engine capacity of 500 cc. In the UK, this model was ridiculed for its similarity to the BSA A7, considering it a cheap copy of the latter. However, this bike was of excellent quality, and Meguro was quite a big player in the emerging Japanese motorcycle business.
Under the Meihatsu brand, a bicycle with an outboard motor is produced, 60, and then its forced version – 80. In 1957, the Meihatsu 125 comes out. It accelerated to a maximum speed of 81.5 km / h, which was a record for this class. In endurance tests, the bike covered 50,000 km without a single breakdown.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ motorcycle and engine division gained recognition as a manufacturer of a wide range of motorcycles, from the very small to the sporty. These motorcycles are loved all over the world for their powerful and reliable engines capable of developing great speeds. There are production facilities in Japan, North America, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.
Suzuki Motor is a Japanese corporation headquartered in the city of Hamamatsu, which produces motorcycles of all classes: from supersports and enduros to cruisers and light classics. In addition, the company manufactures automobiles, ATVs, ATVs, marine engines, wheelchairs and many other products.
The history of Suzuki began in 1909, when its founder, Michio Suzuki, organized the production of looms in the city of Hamamatsu. The firm was named Suzuki Loom Company. The creation of quality looms was Michio’s goal as a child, when he watched the hard work of his mother and other women weaving by hand.
Engineering genius Suzuki invented a new type of loom and by 1929 received 120 patents. Gathering a group of gifted engineers, the company began a triumphal procession across the planet. According to their characteristics, Suzuki looms surpassed the Dutch and British counterparts that were dominant at that time.
Michio Suzuki was awarded the Blue Ribbon Medal for his special contribution to the development of the Japanese economy and inventions that promote industrial growth. Until 1938, Suzuki Loom Company increased the production of looms, which were recognized as the best around the world.
By 1938, Suzuki came to a decision about the need to develop the company in several directions. As an engineer, he was interested in manufacturing vehicles. Therefore, he buys an English car Austin Seven and thoroughly studies the principle of its operation. After some time, the first prototype of the Suzuki car appears. It was equipped with an 800 cc liquid-cooled four-cylinder four-stroke engine, innovative for its time. cm, which developed 13 hp. The car never went into production as the war broke out and the release of civilian vehicles as a “useless luxury” was discouraged by the government.
After the end of the war, the Suzuki Loom Company returns to the manufacture of looms, but cannot achieve stability due to lack of materials and fluctuations in demand. In an attempt to reach the pre-war level, the company produces everything that is in demand – tools, agricultural implements, heaters, musical instruments.
Since 1946, the Japanese government began to encourage manufacturers of weaving equipment, domestic demand is growing, and the company is developing again. However, in 1951, the cotton market collapsed – Suzuki Loom Company was on the verge of financial disaster.
In 1952, Michio Suzuki turned 64, but he was not going to give up. He returned to his longtime idea of producing vehicles. In the post-war years, the Japanese needed reliable and inexpensive means of transportation, and Suzuki began developing the first motorized bicycle.
The novelty that appeared in 1952 was called Power Free. This bike was equipped with a 36 cc two-stroke 1-horsepower motor, which worked together with a transmission system with two chain sprockets, allowing you to help the engine with pedals, if necessary, to ride only with their help or only under the control of the motor. All parts of a motorized bicycle were made at Suzuki factories.
This motorized bicycle was inexpensive to build and maintain, and also very reliable. The rational design was the reason for the allocation of financial subsidies by the government for further development.
Another representative of the Japanese Big Four. The GSXR 750 and the DR 400 are among the most popular Suzuki motorcycles. The company has 35 production sites in more than 20 countries.
KTM AG is a multinational corporation, manufacturer of motorcycles, bicycles and sports cars, headquartered in Matingofen, Austria.
The company was formed in 1992 from the company KTM Motor-Fahrzeugbau KG founded in 1943 by Hans Trankenpolz. In 1992, the latter filed for bankruptcy and split into four independent companies:
- KTM Sportmotorcycles GmbH, since 2003 KTM-Sportmotorcycle AG, specializes in sport motocross bikes;
- KTM Fahrrad GmbH manufactures bicycles;
- KTM Kühler GmbH manufactures cooling systems for car and motorcycle engines;
- KTM Werkzeugbau GmbH manufactures tools.
Now, under the KTM brand, some of the most popular sports motorcycles are produced for motorcycle racing of various types: from circuits to rally raids. Repeatedly riders on KTM motorcycles became the winners of the Dakar Rally and other marathon competitions. In addition, the company produces bicycles, and since 2006, light two-seater sports cars.
The company was born in 1934, when 25-year-old engineer Ganz Trankenpolz opened a locksmith shop and a small car repair shop. Rod Trankenpolz had always been in the civil service, but with the onset of the industrial age, Ganz’s grandfather became a locksmith. In 1872, he opened a firm for the production of agricultural machinery, which exists to this day.
Hans Trankenpolz learned to be a mechanic in his uncle’s car shop. He then raced very successfully and finally decided to open his own workshop called Kraftfahrzeuge Trunkenpolz Mattighofen (KTM).
After a while, the thriving business required expansion. Trankenpolz began to sell DKW motorcycles, which were equipped with powerful two-stroke engines and met the highest quality standards. Since 1939, Hans has become an Opel dealer.
Before the outbreak of World War II, the company employed five people. However, the founder was mobilized, and his wife Elizabeth began to manage the business. In 1943, Hans Trankenpolz was released from military service and returned home to repair trucks and engines for the war effort.
There was a lot of work, the staff of workers grew to 35 people. The company became one of the largest in Upper Austria. Feeling a shortage of spare parts, Hans organizes their production at his place. In 1948, a foundry and a blacksmith shop were opened. The company specializes in the production of crankshaft bearings.
The economic renaissance has drastically reduced the demand for renovation work. The company existed only due to the manufacture of spare parts. This forced Trankenpolz to look for other ways to earn money. At that time, the population was in need of inexpensive but fast means of transportation, and Hans understands that the market is waiting for motorcycles.
Since Trankenpolz worked with DKW motorcycles, he was already able to form a certain idea about his new project. He found an engine for a motorcycle in the city of Gunskirchen. It was a 98cc Rotax engine with a manual starter.
In 1953, Hans sets up serial production of R 100 motorcycles. Every day, the company’s employees assembled 3 units. Businessman Ernst Kronreif drew attention to the success of a small enterprise. He acquired a controlling stake in the company, after which it was renamed Kronreif & Trunkenpolz Mattighofen, leaving a recognizable abbreviation.
In the early years, the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer specialized in 2-stroke and 4-stroke off-road motorcycles, but over time the product range expanded. In addition to dirt bikes, it now includes street bikes and sports cars. The brand is owned by CROSS Industries AG and Bajaj Auto Limited.
Motorcycles under the BMW brand are produced by BMW Motorrad AG, a separate division of the well-known German automaker. The BMW concern was formed by the merger of two small aircraft engine companies that had been operating in Munich since 1913, which were created by Gustav Otto and Karl Rapp. Companies prospered thanks to large government orders for military purposes, and their consolidation took place in order to increase output capacity.
In 1917, the company was registered under the name “Bavarian Motor Works” (Bayerische Motoren Werke, BMW), whose general director was Franz-Josef Popp. In the same year, the BMW emblem appears, depicting a propeller against the sky. It is made in the national colors of Bavaria.
With the arrival of the talented engineer Max Fritz, a new era begins in the company. Fritz became famous even before the First World War. In 1917, after disagreements with the leadership of Mercedes-Benz, he takes a job at BMW. At this time, the manufacturer of aviation equipment was put on the brink of survival, because according to the Treaty of Versailles, the defeated Germany could not build aircraft. It was necessary to re-profile for the production of other products or disappear from the industrial map. The company began manufacturing motorcycle engines.
Fritz prepared the first drawing of a motorcycle in December 1922, four weeks after receiving the order. Its feature was a boxer engine and a new combination of motorcycle power components.
He arranged two cylinders across the direction of travel, and not longitudinally, as was then common. This improved the cooling of the motor by air flow. The box was located next to the motor, and the drive came directly from the crankshaft, which was also located longitudinally. This combination of basic components is used in boxer motorcycles to this day.
The first BMW motorcycle was presented at the Berlin Motor Show on September 28, 1923. It was called R 32. From all points of view, the novelty was of interest, and therefore was enthusiastically received by the public.
The model was equipped with a 494 cc engine developing 8.5 hp. With a weight of 120 kg, it accelerated to 90 km / h.
From a technical point of view, the R 32 was distinguished not only by the revolutionary engine, the location of the power unit and the use of the crankshaft. The frame assembly system with two steel closed parallel contours was successful. The engine was located at the bottom of the frame, which lowered the center of gravity and facilitated handling. The use of light alloys, mud- and oil-tight springs and valve stem, a fully closed lubrication cycle – all this made the motorcycle easier to operate, making it stand out from the competition. In addition, the audience was captivated by the carefully thought-out design with strict, elegant lines and an elegant color scheme.
BMW is one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers. The company’s first bicycle was made in 1923. BMW Motorrad is famous for its racing bikes, sports touring bikes and sports motorcycles. Some of the best-known models are the GS Adventure, the S 1000 REFRIGERATORS and the K1600.
Triumph Motorcycles Limited is a British motorcycle manufacturer headquartered in Hinckley. Its history began in 1885, when immigrants from Germany, Siegfried Bettmann and Maurits Schulte, bought an enterprise in the UK, where they launched the production of bicycles under the Triumph brand.
Prior to this, Siegfried Bettmann had already gained some experience in selling bicycles: in England this mode of transport was then becoming more and more popular, and he organized the sale of bicycles made by the Birmingham manufacturer William Andrews. After a rapid increase in sales and a meeting with Maurits Schulte, Siegfried decided to set up his own production.
Technology at the turn of the century gave the world the internal combustion engine, which engineers and entrepreneurs were looking for as many uses as possible. The progenitors of motorcycles were bicycles with motors, which began to be produced under the Triumph brand. In 1902, the “first-born” appeared, which, without thinking twice, was called that – No. 1. It was equipped with a reinforced frame and a 239 cc Minerva 2 hp engine made in Belgium. This motorized bicycle could accelerate up to 40 km/h. He received a belt drive, but did not lose the pedal chain drive familiar to a bicycle.
In 1905, Schulte hired engineer Charles Hathaway, with whom they jointly designed a 3 hp single-cylinder engine. and a volume of 363 cubic meters. see. A motorcycle with this engine could already accelerate to 72 km / h.
The company’s designers slowly but surely developed their mechanisms, thinking through every detail. This made it possible to establish itself in the market as a manufacturer of reliable and dynamic motorcycles.
In 1907, the Isle of Man had its first race, where the Triumph motorcycle came in second. A year later, the brand took first place in the class. Excellent lap performance prompted the company to include the TT Racer in its catalog as a road bike.
During the First World War, the company produced about 30,000 motorcycles for the army. The most popular models then were the 4-horsepower Model H, which was also called the Trusty Triumph. They were equipped with a primary chain drive, a 550 cc engine and a three-speed gearbox.
Triumph, the UK’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, specializes in racing bikes that fall within the cruiser, naked and sport classes. The Triumph brand is owned by BMW.
The promising idea of \u200b\u200bcreating a “100% American bike” came up with the leadership of the Polaris concern in the mid-nineties. With this noble goal, Polaris has created a special division of Victory Motorcycles, which produces modern motorcycles under the brand of the same name. The main task facing Victory Motorcycles was the development and production of competitive bikes.
In the shortest possible time, Victory engineers and designers calculated the design and created a model of a heavy motorcycle cruiser. Antares’ original model, finished in red and black, arrived at the factory in Iowa.
The debut presentation of the company’s first-born historical model V92C took place in 1997. Its engine is equipped with a balance shaft that reduces vibration. High-quality components of European manufacture are built into the design of the model. The main advantage of the “debutante”, which went on sale in 1998, was an individual appearance, stylized as models of bikes of the forties and fifties. Technical equipment, smooth features, a lot of chrome parts and an impressive weight of the car captivated experts and buyers. The award-winning V92C, experts of the authoritative magazine Cycle World called it “the best cruiser of the year”. To this day, Victory Motorcycles’ debut V92C is considered a living American motorcycle classic.
Building on the success earned by the debut model, Victory reprograms the fuel injection control unit, increases engine power through the use of camshafts, and installs the latest air filter design.
A number of technical innovations, a larger wheel size compared to the previous model, significant ground clearance and a modified driver’s seat allowed the company to introduce the V92SC SportCruise model to connoisseurs in 2000. The ultra-modern concept of a sports cruiser was coldly received by the public. Despite this, Victory Motorcycles continued their research in the same, promising way, in their opinion.
The period of 2001-2002 was marked by the development and start of production of a new generation of Freedom power units. The engines, unique in their configuration and characteristics, with a significant power reserve and a smaller oil cooler, made it possible to significantly expand the range of motorcycle models produced. For example, in 2003, a new model of the unique custom cruiser Victory Vegas, with a standard engine and equipped with a five-speed transmission, was released, which won many awards, including “Best Bike”, “Best New V-Twin Bike” and “Cruiser Of The Year”. During the demonstration performance, the presented model was awarded an award in Las Vegas. The popularity of the Victory Vegas model among customers was the impetus for the improvement of this model in 2006.
Victory is a comparatively young brand that started producing motorcycles in 1998. Their large-capacity cruisers are famous around the world. The US-based company has final assembly in Iowa.