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[TOKYO] Honda on Thursday unveiled its first private jet before it hits the market this summer, as the Japanese giant, better known for making cars, targets deep-pocketed business flyers.
Nearly 20 years in the making, the red and white seven-seater HondaJet, about 13 metres long, is designed to face less air resistance because its engines sit atop the wings instead of the rear of the fuselage.
The curtain raising event at Tokyo's downtown Haneda airport comes as the jet embarks on a world tour totalling 48,000 kilometres, which will take it to more than a dozen countries, including Switzerland, Britain, France and Germany.
HondaJet, developed by the automaker's US-based subsidiary Honda Aircraft Company, has a US$4.5 million price tag and is aimed at wealthy individuals looking to criss-cross continents in privacy.
The company said it currently has more than 100 orders for the business jet, which can travel 2,000 kilometres without refuelling.
That could see it travel between Los Angeles and Denver or London and Rome at speeds of up to 778 kilometres per hour, faster than rival offerings, Honda said.
President Takanobu Ito said the aircraft would "create a new standard of performance and comfort for small-sized business jets".
He added that developing a jet was the long-time ambition of the auto and motorcycle maker's now-deceased founder Soichiro Honda.
"Honda has pursued this dream to take to the skies since the time of the company's launch," Mr Ito said.