Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. is saddened to share the news that former Kawasaki executive Yoji “George” Hamawaki passed away on April 18, 2023. Hamawaki established the Kawasaki brand in the U.S., brought Kawasaki production to America and helped shape models for the U.S. marketplace, including the iconic Kawasaki H2 and Z1.
In 1966, Hamawaki established American Kawasaki Motors Corp. and began working closely with Alan Masek to develop the Kawasaki dealer network across America with comprehensive policies, advertising materials and service training. While building the dealership and sales network, Hamawaki and Masek also studied the consumer needs and model features and communicated that information back to Japan. That feedback was instrumental in Kawasaki launching the 1969 Kawasaki H1 and, later, the iconic “New York Steak” 1973 Kawasaki Z1 900, which solidified Kawasaki as a superbike brand not only in America but across the globe.
To further differentiate the Kawasaki brand from its competition, Hamawaki worked closely with his American team, including Masek and Paul Collins, to increase the brand’s marketing, promotion and advertising. Kawasaki debuted the “Let the Good Times Roll” advertising campaign and tagline, a theme that remains integral to the DNA of the Kawasaki brand.
In addition to establishing the Kawasaki brand to the U.S. customer, Hamawaki also established Kawasaki as the first Japanese manufacturer to bring an assembly plant to the U.S., creating Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing (KMM) in Lincoln, Nebraska. Kawasaki became the first foreign motor vehicle manufacturing/assembly factory on U.S. soil with leading production and factory standards, low turnover and competitive wage rates. KMM began with production of the Kawasaki KZ400, Z1 and Jet Ski. KMM remains one of the largest private employers in Lincoln today.
Hamawaki was the foundation for the Kawasaki brand we know today, having pioneered the brand as the Good Times Co. Hamawaki departed Kawasaki in 1978 and went on to become president of BMW Japan, president of Japan’s Digital Equipment Co. and was inducted into the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame.