Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) is gunning for more volumes in the midsize (over 300cc) motorcycle category in India, where it currently enjoys 6 percent share of the overall segment, which is pegged at 600,000 units annually.
Honda says the riding culture is gaining prominence in India, and there's a boom in the 250cc-500cc segment, where it has clocked over 60,000 units between October 2020 and June 2022, attributed majorly to the successful foray of the H'ness CB300 twins in the market two years ago. As per the company's projections, the segment targeted to grow to 1 million units by 2025.
On August 8, HMSI introduced a brand-new 300cc offering - CB300F - bearing the naked, streetfighter credentials. Priced at Rs 226,000, ex-showroom, New Delhi, it will be locally produced at the company's Gujarat plant in Vithalpur, as the two-wheeler major reaches product saturation at its Manesar plant, dedicated for 250cc and above models. The company has also invested into the localisation of this 300cc, liquid-cooled engine at Gujarat, and is also exporting it to markets like Thailand.
Planning market penetration
The premium offering will be retailed through HMSI's 100-odd BigWing outlets in 95 cities, which at present enable Honda to cover 50 percent of the midsize market. The aim is to expand reach to 250-300 outlets in 150 cities by 2025, and deepen market penetration to 70 percent in the said segment.
The chunk of the BigWing touchpoints, however, are slated to come in Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns, with no plans to grow the flagship BigWing Topline showrooms, that are 8 in number, and are located in Gurugram, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata and Indore.
The company is upbeat about its performance, despite the pandemic and the chip shortage, which is gradually easing off "due to improvement in the supply chain", MD, President and CEO, Atsushi Ogata said.
Ogata further stated that although it's been witnessing a decline since the last three years, "The total two-wheeler market in India definitely looks like it's coming back."
He is bullish about demand recovery in the scooter segment with reopening of schools and colleges, as well as the IT industry in places like Bengaluru and Hyderabad - its chosen location for the launch of the CB300F. "The situation is getting better since the start of FY23, and there is positive momentum even in rural areas," Ogata said.
With no other launches planned in the midsize motorcycle segment this year, Honda says it is committed to introduce more models in the 300-350cc category next year that will take care of its dealer viability as well.
Emission challenges ahead
However, the company is also wary of FY24 as it has to meet the upcoming OBD-II standards as an incremental step to the BS VI emission regime. The company will also commence upgrading its petrol engines to be Ethanol 20 (E20) compatible starting April 2023, and will target switching its entire model range to be E20 compliant before April 2025.
"While the ethanol-blending technology is ready with us, BS VI with ethanol is going to be a first even for Honda globally, and in line with the government direction, we will expand our flex-fuel engine line-up after 2025," Ogata said.
"Next year, we will certainly see challenges in the form of new emission norms, but there is market potential, and HMSI will introduce new technologies. We are confident of growth in the coming years," he signed off.