Honda Takes On The World

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The first production HondaJet on apron at Banyan Air Service

NOTE: The below originally appeared as the editorial in our December 11 One Minute Week newsletter. To find out more, and sign up for free, please click here.


 

Top Gun, Aliens, Platoon, Crocodile Dundee. The year 1986 was a great one for films. Billy Ocean topped the charts with “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” Diana Ross released “Chain Reaction.”

It was also when Honda started researching business aviation.

The first Honda Prototype flew in 2003 with the HondaJet programme formerly launching in 2006.

This week the aircraft was certificated by the Federal Aviation Administration (the old joke says that the volume of paperwork accompanying it now weighs more than the aircraft).

It is a massive achievement for the company – and especially for Michimasa Fujino, president and CEO of HondaJet, who sketched out the design back in 1986. Customer deliveries – originally scheduled in 2010 – can now begin.

This long-term approach commitment is extremely difficult for anyone outside Japan to understand. Many people struggle to understand why it has invested hundreds of millions to build a light jet, where it hopes to deliver 50 aircraft a year. Few companies would have the patience to support a project like this. Patience may be a virtue but it becoming rarer.

Honda Aircraft strategy only makes sense if it is planning to be a big player in business aviation with multiple aircraft. This may seem hard to believe now, but look back at the history of the company.

Honda Motor Company launched in 1948 to build motorcycles. By 1959 it was the world’s biggest manufacturer. In 1958 it started building cars. It is now one of the world’s top 10 car builders. It also builds engines for other carmakers (and it wants to do the same with it GE Honda Aircraft Engines joint venture which launched in 2004.)

Honda may be starting with the HondaJet and refusing to discuss future models, but it has big plans. You can see evidence of this in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Honda Aircraft campus in Greensboro already covers more than 130 acres*. It consist of buildings with more than 600,000 square feet of space.** And there is more room to grow. In another 10 years, Honda will be seen as one of the biggest manufacturers.

Whilst Fujino and his colleagues are right to celebrate the innovative HondaJet, the really exciting thing is what the company does next. But we all need to be patient to find out what that will be.

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