Honda Aircraft hoping to land in region
While pundits foresee trends favouring demand for medium-sized to long-haul executive jets in Southeast Asia, Honda Aircraft sees the region offering strong potential for its ultra-light HondaJet.
The region appears high on the company's worldwide sales campaigns after the small advanced private jet made a name for itself, largely in the Americas and Europe.
"We see Southeast Asia as a vibrant and growing economy, and the best place to launch a HondaJet campaign," Vishal Hiremath, Honda Aircraft director of sales for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, told the Bangkok Post.
He said Honda Aircraft is focusing its marketing efforts on Southeast Asia rather than much larger markets like China for executive jets not only for market opportunity but also because of the rules and regulations on general aviation in the region.
While big companies would prefer larger executive jets, Honda Aircraft zeroes in on buyers in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) segment for use as a business tool, not necessarily as a luxury item.
The compact jet, distinguished by its smooth nose, wings and engines mounted on pylons above each wing, can cover a range of 2,234 kilometres with four passengers and two pilots, can serve their purposes, according to Mr Hiremath.
The aircraft, with a current price tag of US$4.9 million (162 million baht) a unit for the base version, claims a fairly low operation cost (fuel plus maintenance), of around $1,000 an hour.
Mr Hiremath said it is difficult to pinpoint the specific demand for the ultra-light business jet in Southeast Asia, where he said there are about 500 jets of all sizes in operation.
The US-based affiliate of Japan's Honda conglomerate this week showcased the compact jet to potential buyers in the region this week.
A total of nearly 40 people drawn from 11 groups of potential buyers representing a wide-range of businesses including retail, property and mining, were shown the aircraft.
The aircraft has gone on a static display in Bangkok, Yangon, Siem Reap and Bali, where the company claims to have received enthusiastic response from potential buyers.
Honda Aircraft has also recently appointed Thai Aerospace Services (TES), a Bangkok-based Thai-owned company, as its dealer for Southeast Asia.
While Mr Hiremath refused to specify the Honda Aircraft sales target for the region, TES executive vice-president Khongsak Hiranpruek said there are good prospects for four aircraft to be sold by year-end.
To help drum up worldwide sales, Honda Aircraft is looking to appoint dealers in other regions like China and India, Mr Hiremath said.
The company now has five dealers in the US, three in Europe and one in Brazil.
Honda Aircraft delivered the first customer aircraft in December 2015, marking Honda's ambitious foray into the aerospace industry, branching out from its automotive and motorcycle mainstay.
It has since chalked up orders for 100 aircraft, 54 of which have already been delivered.
Honda Aircraft is producing four aircraft a month at its plant in North Carolina, where it employs close to 1,000 people.
It aims to ramp up output to 80 aircraft a year.
There is no plan to create a new variant from the single model which is the company's focus, according to Mr Hiremath.
The aircraft has so far been certified by aviation safety agencies in the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Europe.
Owning a HondaJet in Thailand may take a year, if one decides to place an order today, not only due to the backlog wait, but also for the time required to get the aircraft certified by Thai aviation authority.