Honda is drawing a strong response from urban centres for its yet-to-be launched CBR250R, the first product after exiting the JV with Hero Motors. The challenge for the company now is to gain traction in semi-urban and rural areas,
Nine-thirty in the morning and the Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) plant at Manesar in Haryana is buzzing with activity rolling out 3,300 vehicles every day from the two lines I visited. Another line in the adjacent building is churning out 2,000 scooters daily. But that’s not good enough. Because the buoyant domestic two-wheeler market and Honda’s brand equity has resulted in a long waiting period for its products. In some places, the wait is as much as 11 months for its best-selling scooter Activa and upto four months for its 150cc Unicorn motorcycle.
Its next product – the 250cc motorcycle CBR250R – which is slated to go on sale from April 15 is going to add to the production pressure, considering the handsome response it has got so far without a single test ride.
Over 2,500 bookings with Rs 5,000 each as booking amount have been clocked by its dealerships as of February 28. Urban consumers can’t seem to wait for the CBR250R, but HMSI would go steady.
N K Rattan, operating head – sales & marketing, HMSI, says: “We would not like to take bookings for more than three months (of production)”. That translates to around 7,000 bikes as the company plans to produce around 2,500 CBR250Rs every month. Rattan expects the CBR250R’s customer base to comprise of both budding and seasoned riders. “The CBR250R will meet the fun riding expectations of riders of all kinds, ranging from entry level riders who want to graduate from 125-150cc to a higher performance bike to seasoned riders who already have the large motorcycle experience,” he says.
High localisation, ‘Competitive’ pricing
What is attracting prospective CBR250R customers to showrooms is the bike’s design and, more importantly, the expected price tag of Rs 1.5 lakh which is seen as a ‘very competitive’ price by analysts. How will Honda manage to sell at this price? The answer lies in the product’s high local content. “The CBR250R will have close to 95-95 percent of localisation level,” reveals Rattan.
Along with the price, Honda hopes the first-of-its kind (in India) feature of Combined Anti-lock Braking System in the CBR250R will also pull customers towards it. Honda will offer a combined ABS front (296mm floating disc) and rear (220mm) disc brakes, as a paid option. Both calipers use advanced resin-moulded pads. The combined system is calibrated to intervene and allocate brake pressure to the front and rear brakes whenever you depress the rear brake, while the front brake lever works independently as on any motorcycle. Both brakes are ABS-enabled, the system modulating hydraulic pressure to prevent wheel lock in every situation.
Race to ramp production
Going ahead Honda’s market performance in two-wheelers will depend on how fast it can ramp up capacity because its current production lines at Manesar are operating at near-optimum capacity. So it’s speeding up the construction of its new plant at Tapukara in Rajasthan.
A visit to the facility shows that work is underway in full swing. The plant is now looking at rolling out its first produce by July, much earlier than the original plan of September/October this year. Initially, the new plant, which will augment HMSI’s annual cumulative capacity to 2.2 million units, will focus more on scooters to bring down the considerable waiting period in the market. However, with the huge demand backlog for its products, HMSI is likely to run out of production capacity and may have to set up a third plant. HMSI chief Shinji Aoyama is reportedly looking at setting up a third plant in South or West India.