Entering the robot business with its Asimo humanoid, Honda Motor Co. is now trying to advance into a new field with its newly developed engine for small aircraft.

Japan’s No. 2 carmaker said Tuesday that it will start exploring business opportunities in the aircraft engine market through a joint feasibility study with Teledyne Continental Motors, Inc., a leading aircraft engine manufacturer in the United States, for a next-generation engine.

The feasibility study will be conducted mainly in the U.S., one of the world’s largest general aviation markets, over several months and will evaluate potential business opportunities for marketing, manufacturing and identifying customers, Honda spokeswoman Noriko Okamoto said.

Honda will decide whether to enter the aviation business based on its research by the end of this year, she said.

The prototype of the new reciprocating, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine is superior to currently available power plants in terms of weight, fuel efficiency, output and exhaust emissions, according to the carmaker.

Honda began work to develop reciprocating aircraft engines in 2000 in cooperation with TCM, based in Mobile, Ala., and its parent company, California-based Teledyne Technologies Inc., a major suppler of electronic components, including aerospace engines.

“We will figure out how Honda and our U.S. partners can cooperate in the engine business,” said Okamoto, noting that Honda hopes to gain expertise in marketing, services and manufacturing of aviation engines from the U.S. firms.

Around 5,000 small airplanes powered by piston engines are sold in the U.S. yearly, about 2,000 to 3,000 for commercial aviation and the rest for private use, according to Honda.

Since its establishment in 1948, Honda’s founders pondered aircraft as well as automotive engines. In 1986, the company started research and development on turbo-fan engines for jet planes.

Honda President Hiroyuki Yoshino recently said the company plans to test fly an aircraft it built, using its turbo-fan engine, by the end of this year.

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