Honda finally tastes success in premium commuter bikes in India

by Amit Panday , 27 Jul 2015

The CB Unicorn 160 is Honda’s fifth attempt in the 150cc class of motorcycles that finally garnered some success for the company.

Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI), India’s second largest two-wheeler manufacturer in terms of domestic sales, has finally found healthy traction in the highly competitive premium commuter motorcycle category (150cc-200cc), which is by far dominated by the likes of Bajaj Auto’s Pulsar and Yamaha’s FZ models.

Industry data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) states that HMSI has sold close to 93,700 units of the CB Unicorn 160 since its launch in the third week of December 2014. This averages sales in the range of 13,500-15,600 units every month, which underlines a healthy volume month-by-month of this model. According to the company, the model has, during July 2015, already crossed the 100,000 unit sales milestone and is growing strong across HMSI’s urban network.

The CB Unicorn 160 is Honda’s fifth attempt in the 150cc class of motorcycles that finally garnered some success for the company. Among the other four models, while the CBR150R is positioned as an entry level, small sportsbike, the CB Trigger is the only other model that it continues to sell. Due to stiff competition from Bajaj Auto and India Yamaha in the premium commuter space, the CB Trigger, however, has failed to deliver in terms of sales volumes.

Talking exclusively to Autocar Professional, YS Guleria, senior vice-president (sales & marketing), HMSI, says: “Conventionally, the second six months of any calendar year are better than the first six months in terms of sales. Quarter-wise, Q2 mostly performs better than the Q1 in every fiscal. The 150cc segment was one class where we could not find success the way we did in other segments. However, we are happy that the CB Unicorn 160 has been accepted in the domestic market as we continue to move in line with our first year sales target for this model. The CB Unicorn 160 has given us good traction in its class and is a popular model in the western states, especially in Maharashtra. We anticipate that the model will do even better in the second half of 2015 and we are expecting that Gujarat, especially in the upcoming festive season, will contribute to healthy sales of this model.”

While Maharashtra is the top-selling state for Honda’s CB Unicorn 160, it is followed by Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where the model has found many buyers.

“Our strategy of having a clear focus on urban youth and ensuring that our network in the top 35 cities, where we are No. 1 two-wheeler player, have the right products, right inventory and at the right time is delivering impressive results,” adds Guleria.

It can be recalled that on July 1, 2014, Autocar Professional had revealed that HMSI was readying a 160cc premium commuter in another attempt to make its mark in the said class of motorcycles. To cater to the growing class of urban and semi-urban youth, Honda had reworked on its CB Unicorn by not only stylising the model more but also gave it relatively more displacement of 162.71cc, which develops 14.5bhp of peak power – slightly more than its 149cc sibling CB Trigger.

Suzuki’s Gixxer is another model that is providing the company much-needed acceptance in the said segment of motorcycles. Pitched against Honda’s CB Unicorn 160, the 14.5bhp-155cc Gixxer models (along with its faired sibling – the Gixxer SF) have managed to garner total sales of 51,834 units since their launch. This is an impressive number for Suzuki Motorcycle India.

A few popular models that would comprise the premium commuter motorcycle segment in India would be the Bajaj Pulsar 150 DTSi, Pulsar 180 DTSi, Pulsar AS 150, Yamaha FZ-S, FZ-16, Fazer, Suzuki Gixxer, TVS Apache 160 and Apache 180 and the Honda CB Unicorn 160 among others.

Interestingly, Q1 FY2015-16 sales results also highlight that HMSI has seen an uptick in the sales of its air-cooled, single-cylinder, fuel-injected 249.6cc model – the CBR250R. The company has almost doubled its Q1 FY2014-15 sales of 497 units of this model during Q1 FY2015-16 to 954 units.

Revving up its portfolio very soon, HMSI is expected to roll out its flagship model – the CBR650F, which will offer a 649cc engine in a four-cylinder configuration to the buyers in India. The model, which is being locally assembled at HMSI’s Manesar plant, will be sold across 10 select dealerships in phase one.