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HondaJet eyes expanding market to Latin America, Asia

Kyodo

Honda Aircraft Co. aims to expand its market for the HondaJet to Latin America within a few years, before moving into China and Southeast Asia, the company’s chief, Michimasa Fujino, said Monday.

Fujino, president and CEO of the aviation arm of Honda Motor Co., suggested the company could also eventually move into Japan as the country gears up to host the Olympic Games.

“I personally hope to make some contributions toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if groundwork is done for the business jet market and support arrangements,” Fujino said.

He spoke as his company unveiled its first production model of the HondaJet at an air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, giving the light jet its public debut.

The company, based in Greensboro, North Carolina, said it has received orders for more than 100 units in North America and Europe for the jet targeted at wealthy individuals, corporate executives and air taxi services, with delivery expected to start in 2015. It carries a $4.5 million price tag.

On Latin America, Fujino expressed strong interest in Brazil.

“We would like to make an entry there as early as possible, because it has a very strong demand for business jets, given a large number of high net-worth individuals.”

China is also “a very promising market,” he said, raising hopes for extending its reach to the country along with Southeast Asian markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in five to seven years.

At an air show news conference Fujino said, “The unwrapped first production unit is the crystallization of a Honda dream and demonstrates our passion for aircraft.”

The roughly 13-meter-long plane is powered by two engines installed over the main wings and it has a spacious interior, the company says. Its standard model can seat up to six people, including the crew.

The company expects to start deliveries to clients after acquiring airworthiness certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in the first quarter of 2015.

At the EAA AirVenture show, scheduled to run through Sunday, HondaJet drew a throng of spectators.

Among them was Susumu Matsushita, 44, who came from Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, with his family on a summer vacation trip.

“Its design, mounting engines over the wings, is groundbreaking and that grabbed my attention,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing Honda founder the late Soichiro Honda’s dream of entering the aviation business finally coming true.”

Soichiro Honda founded what came to be known as Honda Motor in 1946, growing it into one of Japan’s best-known brands for automobiles and motorcycles. He died in 1991 at age 84.

Honda entered the aircraft business when it launched the HondaJet project in 2006.

Jon McKenzie, a 63-year-old aviation fan from Menasha, Wisconsin, said, “Honda’s got very good reliability in everything they do . . . so I think HondaJet will be accepted.”