June 6, 2018 / 5:25 AM / 14 days ago

Honda to start selling Hondajet in Japan next year

* Expects trading house Marubeni will deliver jets from H1 2019

* Will focus on fleet sales and selling to individual customers

* Sees jet ops becoming profitable about 5 yrs after first full year of sales in 2016

TOKYO, June 6 (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co on Wednesday said it would start selling its six-seater business jet in Japan next year, as it seeks to expand global sales by tapping into demand from a growing class of high net-worth individuals.

The automaker is currently awaiting certification for the plane both at home and in China, after having already received U.S. and European certifications over the past two years.

Honda said it had partnered with trading house Marubeni Corp for domestic deliveries of the jet.

Marubeni will begin delivering the jets around the first half of 2019, pending certification, Honda said, adding it hoped to double Japan’s total use of business jets over five years.

“At the moment Japan lacks a strong culture of using business jets ... but the number of high-net worth individuals is competitive with that in the United States,” Hondajet CEO Michimasa Fujino told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.

“We want to target these customers to grow the market,” said Fujino, who is also the chief engineer of the business jet.

The Hondajet will come to Japan after Honda delivered its first aircraft in 2015 in the United States.

Fujino said he hoped to tap into the domestic market, where business jets are limited with around 90 in use at the moment, in its early stages and focus both on fleet sales and selling to individual customers.

The jet business is expected to become profitable about five years after its first full year of sales in 2016, he added.

Honda’s jet has been in the making for over 30 years. It has been a labour of love for Fujino, who confounded industry colleagues with the craft’s engineering masterstroke: engines mounted on the wings, not the fuselage, that cut cabin noise and made space for a full-sized washroom, a first in its segment.

Honda hopes the plane will help varnish its brand image as a maker of cutting-edge technology products and that jet-engineering skills will raise the efficiency and performance of future car models.

Honda’s $5.25 million jet is the first aircraft developed by an automaker since World War Two. It sells the plane in North America, Europe and the Middle East, among other regions. (Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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