TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co. said on Tuesday it would start looking into the possibility of selling a next-generation piston aviation engine that it has been developing since 2000.
The announcement marks the first indication that Honda may expand into aviation as a business, although the automaker has been researching turbo-fan engines for small jets since the 1980s.
Honda said over the next few months, it and partner Teledyne Continental Motors Inc, a unit of U.S. electronic components maker Teledyne Technologies Inc., would look for opportunities to market, service and manufacture the engines.
Entry into the aviation business could present big opportunities for Honda, which says its new engine is superior to currently available types in terms of weight, fuel efficiency, power output and emissions.
The U.S. small aircraft market is the biggest in the world, with demand for engines for such aircraft estimated at 10,000 units a year.
Honda, known for its popular Accord and Civic cars, is one of the world's leading manufacturers of engines, with production of more than 15 million units last year.
Rival Toyota Motor Corp., Japan's biggest automaker, also grabbed headlines last year by making its first test run of a single-engine prototype aircraft in California.
Toyota had said at the time that it could apply its manufacturing expertise to the aircraft sector, but played down any talk that it was out to revolutionize one of America's most important industries.