Kawasaki motorcycles are manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., an international corporation based in Japan. It has headquarters in both Chūō-ku, Kobe and Minato-ku, Tokyo and is named after its founder Shozo Kawasaki.
Kawasaki, originally started operations in 1924 as a metallurgy and aircraft company and by 1949 Kawasaki manufactured small engines for use in motorcycle manufacturing. In 1954 Kawasaki Motorcycles produced their first complete motorcycle under the name of Meihatsu, a subidiary of Kawasaki Aircraft. That first bike was the Meihatsu 125 Deluxe.
In 1960, Meguro Works, Japan's oldest motorcycle manufacturer, entered into a business agreement with Kawasaki Aircraft Company, Ltd. The Meguro Works had been manufacturing motorcycles since 1909 and its first large motorcycle (1930s) was the Z97, a 500cc rocker-valve motorcycle influenced by the Swiss brand Motosacoche. The Z97 lasted through to the 1950s. During its best years, Meguro also had produced a 60cc 2-stroke; the 4-stroke, single cylinder, rocker-valve 125cc E3, the 250cc F, the 350cc YA with BMW technology and a twin cylinder 650cc models with a high degree of British influence. Also in 1960, the Meihatsu brand is taken out of the market.
In 1962, engineers from Kawasaki auto project transferred to Meguro to work on the Meguro SG and Meguro K1. The SG was a 250cc, 4-stroke, OHV single cylinder while the K1 was a 496cc, 4-stroke, OHV 2-cylinder mounted in a double-cradle frame. The K1 was based on the English BSA A7 as a replacement for the Meguro Z7 single. While the work proceeded on the K1, at the same development of the W1 was taking place as Meguro was absorbed by Kawasaki.
In 1965, the K1 engine was redesigned with an increased oil pump, better crankshaft bearings, etc. and the motorcycle became the K2 but still had design flaws of its model, the BSA A7. In 1966, The Kawasaki W1 and W2 entered the U.S. market but it was not impressive. Up until its introduction, Kawasaki had been exporting only 2-strokes to the U.S. since 1960.
Kawasaki produced its first television commercial in 1972. The theme and theme song was "Come Out Ahead On A Kawasaki." This theme then changed to "Kawasaki Lets The Good Times Roll."