‘We are now on a growth path, stay glued to Honda's progress in India’: Toshio Kuwahara

Having restructured its Indian operations, Honda Cars India is back on the growth path, says Toshio Kuwahara, President and CEO, Asian Honda Motor and Head of Regional Unit (Asia and Oceania).

By Ketan Thakkar calendar 25 Jun 2023 Views icon15666 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
‘We are now on a growth path, stay glued to Honda's progress in India’: Toshio Kuwahara

At the world premiere of the all-new Elevate in India on June 6, we spoke to Toshio Kuwahara, President and CEO, Asian Honda Motor and Head of Regional Unit (Asia and Oceania), Honda Motor Company. The launch of this all-new SUV was a stamp of commitment to Honda's plans and aspirations for India, he told Autocar Professional. Kuwahara expects India to remain a key pillar of growth, now and in the future.

What is your view on the Indian market from a global perspective?
Last year we delivered 28 million vehicles globally which included cars and motorcycles, all put together. India accounted for 4.5 million. (16 percent) of Honda's global volumes. That clearly indicates that India is one of the most important automotive markets for the Honda brand in the future. That is why the global premiere of the new premium SUV Elevate was staged in the Indian market.

India was among the top three markets for Honda in 2016-2017 but with time it has slipped. Do you expect India to regain its past glory?
That is a very difficult question. I am asking Tsumura San (Takuya Tsumura, President and CEO of Honda Cars India) to do everything that he can to regain volumes, market share and profitability.

Five or six years ago we had high volumes because of a robust product portfolio. However, we had to shift gears due to market conditions. We pruned the portfolio and restructured our operations with only City and Amaze vehicles.

With the successful completion of the restructuring of our business, thanks to Tsumara San, we are now on a growth path. Starting with the new Elevate SUV, we will try to recover everything, volumes, market share and profitability. We are also committing four additional SUVs beyond Elevate by 2030, so stay glued to Honda's progress in India.

India overtook Japan as the third largest vehicle market, how does your HQ view this development?
In Japan, because the population is decreasing, the auto market is shrinking and there is a big element of shared mobility. But in India, given the large young population, it is growing. India has a very bright future ahead and will continue to grow.

The mid-size SUV segment is a highly competitive space and rivals offer a multitude of powertrains. Does that make Elevate less competitive with just a petrol engine?
Rather than looking too much into the movements of our competitors, we try to concentrate on our direction itself. First of all, we are happy that our petrol engines have a very good balance with performance and fuel efficiency. On top of that, we have our I-VTEC technology which is well supported by our customers in India. And BEVs will be one of the solutions that we will offer in the future. It takes time to prepare the charging infrastructure. But it will be strategically placed depending on the models.

Your view on the electrified future, where does India figure?
We have said that two third of our total sales by 2030 will be electrified vehicles. Plans for India will move in that direction.

The speed of electrification might be different from market to market because it depends on where the energy or electric power comes from and the charging infrastructure. So obviously electrification in North America and China is going ahead at a quick pace. But I think it is only a matter of time before electrification of automobiles will move forward in this country as well. Nevertheless, we have already committed that by 2040 we will have 100 percent EVs — either FCEVs or BEVs so it's just a matter of time for India too.

Your view on the current semiconductor shortage?
We are still struggling to cater to all the demand globally, but the situation is getting better. We are now strengthening relationships with Tier I suppliers. For example, with TSMC, we are discussing short term and long-term solutions, the semiconductor demand situation and the resultant supply scenario expected from them. This is so that the situation gets better in the future.

What is the future of the Greater Noida factory, do we see CKDs coming back there?
Well, of course, I do not deny the future possibility around several types of models coming back, including higher segments. But at this moment, we just finished restructuring our business with the City and the Amaze models. Step by step, we may go into other categories or segments.


This interview was first published in Autocar Professional's June 15, 2023 issue.

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