All-new City, which gets a 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engine option, will give Honda Cars India a new shot in the arm when it goes on sale next year. Shobha Mathur reports. 4.
Honda says the all-new City has been developed at the Honda R&D centre in Tochigi, Japan following extensive market surveys in India, ASEAN countries and other markets for people’s driving needs and lifestyles.
India, being a key strategic market for Honda, was chosen to lead the global production for the new City with the 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engine.
“The City is currently sold in 55 countries across the world and is Honda’s leading brand in Asia and Oceania region. With the fourth-generation City, we aim to raise its popularity further and make it a significant future model in Honda’s global portfolio which will be available in many more countries,” said Yoshiyuki Matsumoto, managing officer, Honda Motor Company and representative of Development, Purchasing and Production in Asia and Oceania region while unveiling the new City. Honda Cars India had discontinued production of the old City in October 2013, rolling out over 9,000 Amaze saloons and 1,800 Brio hatchbacks from its Greater Noida plant of the total 13,200 units produced from two shifts during the month. At the time, the company was producing around 440 cars a day from two shifts.
Noida plant in overdrive mode
Meanwhile, the third shift has kicked off from November and according to Hironori Kanayama, president and CEO of Honda Cars India, will enhance production capacity by 40 percent to 616 units a day. With the third shift now underway, the waiting period for the popular Amaze will stand reduced to one month now from around 3-4 months.
The production figures for the new City are yet to be finalised though Kanayama said that there is a possibility of the car being exported, based on country-specific demand. Thus far, the Brio and the Amaze are being exported to Nepal and South Africa and JnaneswarSen, senior vice- president, marketing and sales, expressed optimism about tapping new markets around South Africa.
The new City (Code: 2CT) will be sold with both diesel and petrol options. After the runaway success of the diesel-engined Amaze that accounts for 70 percent of the Amaze sales, a similar response is expected for the diesel-engined City.
The 1.5-litre diesel in the City is Honda’s new made-for-India engine based on the carmaker’s Earth Dreams technology as seen on the Amaze saloon, but is more fuel efficient and refined. The 1.5-litre petrol engine has also been tuned for better fuel efficiency and comes with a plastic intake manifold for weight reduction.
The new City boasts a 24 percent improvement in structural rigidity as compared to the old car.
There are new MacPherson struts for the front suspension, while the rear gets an H-shape twist-beam suspension. Honda also claims the brakes have been tuned to provide better feel.
In terms of equipment, the new City comes with a five-inch LCD display, with in-built hands-free telephony, steering-mounted audio controls, and an eight-speaker sound system with USB, MP3 and Bluetooth connectivity as standard, along with a total of four power outlets for the front and rear seats. The car now also gets rear air-con vents, touchscreen air-con controls, a sunroof and cruise control.
The new City is built on the same platform as the upcoming new-generation Jazz that is slated for launch next year. The Mobilio MPV will also roll out next year and Kanayama confirmed that both these models will be displayed at Auto Expo 2014 in February.
Honda has started accepting bookings for the new City but has not revealed prices as yet. Deliveries are expected to commence after the launch in January 2014.
Since the first-generation City was launched in India 15 years ago, the car has sold 430,000 units. Interestingly, the Amaze saloon has seen sales of over 50,000 units in less than eight months after its launch with Honda, which has sold 70,831 units in the April-October 2013 period, recording 62.74 percent growth over the same period in 2012.
“Both the diesel Amaze and the new City provide a great opportunity to Honda to increase its presence in the passenger car market over the next few years,” concluded Kanayama.
INTERVIEW WITH H KANAYAMA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HONDA CARS INDIA
Which new models do you plan to introduce next year and will they be displayed at the Auto Expo next year?
We plan to introduce the seven-seaterMobilio MPV next year as well as the new Jazz. Both models will be shown at the Auto Expo 2014.
Is Honda also mulling a compact SUV for India?
There are no immediate plans to do so but we will consider bringing a compact SUV to India over the next 2-3 years.
The Vezel compact SUV was displayed at the Tokyo show. Will Honda bring it to India?
No, we are not planning to bring the Vezel to India at present as we have to evaluate which models will be suitable in Indian conditions and for Indian customers. After that, we will decide which SUV model to launch in India.
Is the upcoming Tapukara plant on track and will production of some of the new models like the new City be shifted there from the Greater Noida plant? Is there a likelihood of the diesel models being produced at Tapukara?
We are considering which models to shift to Tapukara but some of the new models will be produced there. We are still to decide whether to produce existing models as well at Tapukara. We cannot produce only the diesel Amaze or City at Tapukara as they have a petrol option as well, so production cannot be split.
Exports of the Brio and Amaze to South Africa and Nepal began this year. Is the new City a frontrunner for export?
There is a possibility of the new City being exported to neighbouring markets but we are yet to identify these markets. Exports will also depend on the import requirements of various countries.
SHOBHA MATHUR (at a media round table in New Delhi)
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