After ruling the scooter segment for over 20 years with the Activa, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI), today announced its foray into the middle-weight, midsized motorcycle space in India.
The company unveiled its Honda Hness CB 350 cruiser motorcycle, part of its lifestyle range of premium motorcycles such as the CB 1000 and GoldWing being retailed from the Honda Big Wing flagship showrooms.
While it has products in the mass-market and executive motorcycle space encompassing the 100cc to 250ccc range, HMSI is bullish about the impending boom in the midsized 350-500cc category, which has been a forte of Royal Enfield.
According to YS Guleria, director, Sales, Marketing, Aftersales, Logistics, Premium Bikes, Brand and Communication, HMSI, “The Hness CB 350 is going to cater to the midsized motorcycle customer. It is a very exciting segment from us as we have been keenly watching the space for a couple of years, which is offering great potential for growth and innovation.”
India leads development of new model
India has led the development of this new model with the R&D team at HMSI being at the forefront and working in close coordination with that in Japan. “Fun riding has come a long way in India and within the category midsized motorcycles are the fastest growing set. Our sales, engineering, design and purchase teams spent long hours to ensure that we fine-tune each aspect of this machine to the last bit,” added Guleria.
“India is one of the most important markets for Honda’s global two wheeler business. In the ASEAN region, we are No. 1 with over 70 percent market share and so, we are expanding the big motorcycle market in India for the enthusiasts,” said Noriaki Abe, managing officer and chief officer, Motorcycles, Honda Motor Corporation.
The Honda Hness CB 350 bears a typical cruiser motorcycle design with the concept of a basic roadster underlining its development. According to Kanta Yamamoto, large project leader, Hness CB 350, Honda Motor Corporation, “The wide range of values that drive the Hnesss CB 350 design includes camaraderie and a sense of sharing among friends when they go on a long ride. Hence, the frame and chassis have been engineered to offer a sense of unity between the rider and machine. The handlebar position is also designed for easier manoeuvrability, and offers a relaxed and dignified riding posture.”
The Honda Hness CB 350 has a low seat height of 1107mm, a 1441mm wheelbase and 166mm of ground clearance.
Evident in its name, the Honda Hness CB 350 comes powered by a single-cylinder, air-cooled, 350cc, BS VI-compliant engine. “The load distribution and balancing were the key engineering aspects while developing the engine to ensure smoothness and low vibrations. To ensure the unique, bass-heavy exhaust note, we utilised a double-layered and long-diameter tail pipe,” added Yamamoto.
In terms of features, the motorcycle offers LED headlamps and tail-lamps, an analogue-digital instrument cluster, and Honda’s unique and proprietary Honda Voice Control System developed in-house, which will aid Bluetooth-based communication among multiple Hness riders in a group. As regards safety, the Honda Hness CB 350 will offer dual-channel ABS, traction control as well as selectable torque control.
The Honda Hness CB 350 will be offered in two variants – Deluxe and Pro – with the latter offering the digital and connectivity functions. It will be offered in six monotone colour options along with Honda Racing signature dual-tone options as well.
Big on localisation, bigger plans
With India being in the driving seat for the commissioning of the Hness CB 350’s which is a global model having been unveiled first in India, affordability was the key consideration for the company and as per Guleria, “The Hness will have close to 90 percent localisation at SOP, and we will enhance that as we go along and forge deeper ties with our suppliers.”
The company is going to introduce the new model at starting prices in the range of Rs 190,000 ex-showroom, and will announce the exact prices and launch the motorcycle at the start of the festive season during Navratri in October. It will, however, offer the product for look-and-feel to customers right away at its Big Wing showrooms in four cities including Gurgaon, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kochi and Bhilai.
HMSI is also relying heavily on the midsized cruiser to give a shot in the arm to its premium retail network and plans to setup 50 outlets across the country by end-2020. “Depending upon market demand, we will continue expanding into more markets and the expansion of the network will also align with the expansion of our product portfolio at the Big Wing showrooms,” Guleria added further.
The Hnesss, which will be manufactured at the company’s first plant in Manesar, Haryana, will also open up a new and profitable stream of accessories and gears for HMSI and it also unveiled a whole range of peripherals that it would be stocking up at its showrooms to offer a complete one-stop riding solution to discerning riders. The riding gears and accessories will be procured from some of the renowned global brands like Arai helmets, as well as leading Indian riding gear companies.
So, even as Harley-Davidson announced its exit from India and the premium cruiser motorcycling segment per se, HMSI is betting big on the riding feel of such products for long-distance and day-to-day commuting, and is bullish of striking the right chord with the buyer and with the right price-tag.
The Honda Hness CB 350 will go head to head with the Royal Enfield Bullet and Classic 350 models along with other mid-capacity touring options in the sub-Rs 200,000 price range such as the Bajaj Dominar. Will it bring a new charge for the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer? The Hness looks determined to do so. We will keep a close watch to see if it can rule the market.