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Honda Joins Rolls-Royce… in the Air

Honda is set to join the likes of Rolls-Royce, Saab and BMW.  You may be wondering what a typical middle-class family drive like Honda (which is not to run Honda down – they’re good cars that do the job they’re designed to do with flying colours, i.e. getting families from A to B in comfort and safety at an affordable price) is doing alongside luxurious European models.  But we’re not talking about cars here: we’re talking about aeroplanes.

Yes, Honda is set to launch the Hondajet and has got a working prototype up into the air successfully.  Tests are still being carried out, so it’ll be a wee while until we get Hondas above the roads as well as on them. (If you think it takes time to get a car from concept to the car sales yard, it’s nothing to the testing that aircraft go through).  Honda isn’t alone in being a car manufacturer that has branched out beyond just four wheels.

BMW no longer makes aircraft but, like many European engineers during World War II, turned away from cars and motorbikes and went into aircraft instead to aid the war effort.  This aviation legacy is retained in BMW’s logo, which is intended to represent the propeller of an aircraft.

Saab still makes aircraft – in fact, aircraft is where Saab started (SAAB stands for “Svenska Aeroplan Arktiebolag” or “Swedish Aeroplane Company Ltd”).  Saab’s real success stories in the aviation world are the Viggen and the Gripen, which were fighter aircraft that were used until quite recently as the plane of choice by NATO and prized for their ability to take off and land in rough conditions.  This explains why the top-notch Saab car models often have the tag “Gripen”, “Viggen” or “Aero”.  And some of that fighter jet technology has been popped into some of the latest cars as a safety feature. Saab is quite a military organisations, and it also makes weaponry and defence systems.  And don’t forget the trucks, now that Saab has merged with Scania.

You will probably find more Rolls-Royce engines in the air than on the roads.  In fact, you’d be safe enough saying that Rolls-Royce is primarily a manufacturer of aircraft engines that does luxury cars on the side rather than the other way around, even though the man and woman on the street probably thinks of the posh car if you mention a Rolls.

It’s often quite interesting to think about the other things that car manufacturers go in for and the places you can find the badge on the front of your set of wheels.  Here’s a sample:

  • Honda: motorbikes, including the iconic Honda 50, power tools and lawnmowers, inflatable boats, outboard motors, solar cells, robots and mountain bikes
  • BMW: motorbikes
  • Toyota: sewing machines, robots
  • Mitsubishi: aircraft (kamikaze fighter planes a specialty in WWII), air con systems for homes, lifts, electric bits and pieces including medical equipment and a whole lot more (the Mitsubishi group is massive and is one of the largest companies in Japan, which says something).
  • Suzuki: wheelchairs, motorbikes, outboard motors.  Suzuki is a very common Japanese surname, so Suzuki cars have nothing to do with the company that produces musical instruments or with the method of teaching small children the violin.
  • Lamborghini: heating systems, air con systems, water filters, tractors and front-end loaders.