Honda Motorcycle keen to grow in midsize performance segment

by Mayank Dhingra 08 Feb 2019


Japanese two-wheeler giant, and one which is also the second largest player in the Indian market - Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) - today launched its brand-new product to cater to the Indian motorcycle enthusiast.

Sitting at the very start of the performance arena, the all-new Honda CB300R is priced at Rs 241,000 ex-showroom, India. The bike will be locally assembled from CKD kits being imported from Thailand and the company has only made minor modifications like adding the mandatory saree guard to meet Indian homologation requirements.

The new motorcycle gets a 286cc liquid-cooled, single-cylinder fuel-injected engine and develops 30bhp of power and 27.4Nm of peak torque.

The motorcycle gets a rigid frame with special focus being paid at mass centralisation with the bike getting its ABS module and the battery situated adjacent to the engine. The swingarm too is made of deformed steel to complement in overall agile handling and feel of the product.

A four-calliper disc brake setup at the front and dual-channel ABS with an inertial measurement unit (IMU) will come standard, thus, hinting at superior stopping power at the rider's disposal.

The company says that it has got good response from customers since it announced the bookings in mid-Jan. Deliveries will only commence in March and HMSI will offer the product in two colour options - Matte Axis Gray Metallic and Candy Chromosphere Red.

HMSI sees the mid-size motorcycle segment (300-600cc) in India, which currently boasts over 200,000 units annually as having strong growth potential in the future.

“We see a future in the middle-weight category and while we already have a CKD line in place, we will continue watching the space as to how to bring such models to India - via CBU or CKD in future. But, any steps towards localisation will only depend upon having a serious volume base in order to have long-term contracts with the local supplier base so as for it to make business sense at both the ends. The CB300R is still niche and we will now monitor the customers in this price range,” said YS Guleria, senior vice president, Sales and Marketing, HMSI, speaking at the sidelines of the launch in New Delhi. 

“Currently we have limited capacity at our CKD line but we can certainly expand depending upon customer demand,” added Minoru Kato, president and CEO, HMSI.

Mass-market to remain crucial
“Our priority has always been towards the mass-segment, but, going forward, we have to take care of our progress in the premium space in a step-wise manner. Technology getting matured, new homologation norms coming in and as the price point shifts, all of this will all augur well for growth in the future,” Guleria said.

“Having said that, the mass segment still remains very important to us and we have a long way to go in terms of our penetration in the Tier II and Tier III towns with scooters and motorcycles,” he added.

“We see scooters still continuing to grow over the next five-to-ten years and being a market leader in the space, the onus is on us to enhance their reach in the rural and smaller cities,” Guleria commented.

A Silver Wing approach
As part of its new global direction, Honda Motor Company is adopting a new ‘Silver Wing’ brand approach for its mid-size and premium sports motorcycles. While HMSI gave a hint of this new thought process at the launch of the CB300R in the capital today, the company says it will soon unravel the complete picture it has towards the new concept.

As of now, there are 22 Honda Wing World dealers spread across various cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune among others and the company will sell all of its three premium products - the Africa Twin, CBR 650 F and the latest entrant CB300R - only through these exclusive plush outlets. The company says that it will soon share an expansion plan, both on its outreach and its product plan.

Two-wheelers on a decline
With January sales numbers not bearing any good for the two-wheeler industry overall with volumes dwindling year-on-year at 5.18 percent with sales peaking at 1,597,572 units, the Japanese giant has had a bad hit as well. “The slowdown was an outcome of the weak liquidity situation in the market with the NBFCs getting critically impacted. Two-wheeler finance has grown from 32 percent to 40 percent over the last five years and hence, the increase in NPAs, hampered sales,” Guleria said.

“Unfortunately, the kind of response that we had expected in the festive season, we could not get that demand from the market. As a result, we have been correcting our inventory over the last couple of months, he added.

Unlike its rivals Hero MotoCorp and Bajaj Auto, HMSI not having its own financing arm in-house felt the bigger impact of the crunch especially in the Tier III towns which are mostly reliant on NBFCs.

A slow FY2019 and gearing up for BS VI
“Considering only two months are left to the close of the fiscal year, we expect the two-wheeler segment to remain between 5-8 percent of growth and not touch double-digit. Internally, we want to do  more than what we achieved last year,” Guleria added.

“BS VI remains a top focus for us right now. Our resources and planning is more inclined to upgrade almost our entire line-up into BS VI, “ concluded the marketing maverick.