In the passenger vehicle market, where the overall demand is more for petrol variants, the just-launched Honda WR-V has found more takers for the diesel version.
The car has received around 1,500 bookings, 500 of them yesterday when it was launched. Even as the sales team goes through the data, it has found that out of 1,100 bookings 624, or 57 percent, are in favour of the diesel W-RV. Honda officials say that dealers have received bookings from a "spectrum of customers" who are prospective customers of existing compact SUVs to smaller hatchbacks.
"Going by the demand for diesel, it could be that the W-RV is attracting prospective customers of existing compact SUVs as those models are available either only in diesel or has a strong demand for the diesel variant. However, it's still early days," says Jnaneswar Sen, senior VP (marketing & sales), Honda Cars India. With its pricing, which is in line with Honda's focus on being at the premium end of every segment, the WR-V may not be a volume-getter like the compact SUVs but could be drawing some of their prospective customers towards it.
The diesel variant of the W-RV costs a lakh of rupees more than the petrol one. The model, based on the Jazz platform, is being positioned as a 'sporty lifestyle vehicle' with high ground clearance and crossover styling. Honda wouldn't want to put it either in the category of a 'cross hatch' like the Hyundai i20 or a 'compact SUV' like the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza. "When we started the development of the W-RV, neither the Brezza nor the i20 Active were there. We purely went around designing it around the customer. That time, of course, our focus was more on diesel because the diesel market was emerging. That is how this model was being developed," says Sen.
Emerging R&D Centre
The W-RV took four years of development time. This is the first model developmental project by Honda's India 120-engineer-strong R&D team which includes 40 Japanese engineers. So far, the involvement of the R&D team was limited to component localisation of various models. "The base development was done in Honda R&D, Japan. But our team collaborated with them to develop the whole package," says Yoichiro Ueno, president and CEO, Honda Cars India. With the W-RV being the first step, the role of Honda's R&D team in India is set to be more significant in Honda's product development plans. "I think our young engineers had a good experience from this vehicle. That kind of movement will continue. So, over the future models I think the involvement of Indian engineers will be much bigger," says Ueno. Could that mean the India R&D Centre would conceptualise and develop a whole vehicle? No, at least for now. "At this moment we are not considering to develop any exclusive models for the Indian market. However, the base component will be shared with other countries," says Ueno.
The 'W' in W-RV stands for "winsome". With the India inputs, Ueno and team Honda would hope for it to woo enough Indian customers. The company's model portfolio, except for its best-seller City sedan, hasn't been performing as per expectations. Future models under consideration are the Civic sedan, H-RV SUV and perhaps the Accord petrol (through the CKD route) too. The company needs winners now.