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Honda Aircraft starts taking business jet orders in Japan

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

Honda Aircraft Co.’s “flying sports car” is set for take-off in Japan after the firm announced Wednesday it has begun accepting orders for its private business jet, HondaJet Elite, from domestic customers.

The move represents Honda Aircraft’s first foray into the domestic market, after the aviation unit of Japan’s No. 3 automaker started delivering to customers in North America, Europe and other regions three years ago.

In collaboration with major trading house Marubeni Corp.’s aircraft dealer subsidiary, Marubeni Aerospace Corp., Honda Aircraft aims to deliver the first HondaJet aircraft to domestic buyers in the first half of 2019.

The price tag for a HondaJet Elite is $5.25 million (¥570 million). The company is awaiting approval of a certification request, filed with the transport ministry in May, before deliveries can begin.

“Since Honda was established (in 1948), it has always been our dream to realize a mobility that allows humans to move freely in the sky,” Takahiro Hachigo, president of Honda Motor Co., said at a news conference at the firm’s headquarters in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. “I’m proud HondaJet has expanded sales to Honda’s home — here in Japan.”

Honda has delivered small, six-passenger business jets to customers in North America, Latin America, Europe and other parts of Asia since 2015, targeting well-heeled individuals and business people.

The carmaker’s first commercial aircraft, HondaJet became the world’s most delivered small business plane last year with 43 units, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

Riding a tailwind of growing sales, the North Carolina-based Honda Aircraft debuted an upgraded HondaJet Elite last month, which is designed to make less noise and has a flight range of 2,661 km — 17 percent longer than that of the original HondaJet and enough to fly from Osaka to Hong Kong. The company also announced last month that it would expand its sales network to the Middle East.

While admitting that Japan’s market for private jets is smaller than others, Honda’s latest foray into the domestic market demonstrates the company’s endeavor to establish a new transportation option at home, said Honda Aircraft’s CEO Michimasa Fujino, who has been dubbed the “father of HondaJet.”

“As has always been the case at Honda, our aim is to create a new, uncultivated market rather than occupy a share of the existing market,” he said. “We are about to start something that will be a touchstone for our goal to establish a new transportation system by creating a new business jet market in the region.”

The number of business jets in Japan, including those owned by the government, was 85 in March 2015, according to the Japan Business Aviation Association. The figure was significantly smaller than the 13,133 operating in the U.S., 589 in Great Britain, 410 in Germany and 245 in China.