Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI)’s latest product for the Indian market – the NAVI – which is a cross between a motorcycle and a scooter, is to be manufactured at the company’s Tapukara plant in Rajasthan. This plant, which currently manufactures the Activa scooter models and the CB Twister series, has a production capacity of 1.2 million units per annum.
The NAVI or ‘New Additional Value for India’ is being positioned by Honda as a fun mobility solution for youngsters and borrows design cues from dirt bikes, mopeds and scooters. While the top portion is very dirt bike-like, the storage bay where a motorcycle's engine usually sits, is reminiscent of mopeds. The engine is placed near the rear wheel and the small wheels (12-inch in front and 10-inch are the rear) are like you would find on a scooter. The vehicle has drum brakes at the front and rear and the suspension comprises telescopic forks at the front and the spring-loaded hydraulic type at the rear.
The Navi is quite small – just 1,805mm long, 748mm wide and 1,039mm tall – and extremely light too, weighing in at just 101kg. While the chassis and frame are new, the NAVI will be powered by the same 110cc four-stroke SI engine that powers the Honda Activa scooter, which develops 7.8bhp at 7,000rpm.
Importantly, the NAVI has been completely designed by Honda India's R&D team, it is highly customisable in terms of all panels and colours, and when launched, it will be available at a low price of Rs 39,500 (ex-showroom, Delhi). Speaking to Autocar Professional, Keita Muramatsu, president and CEO, HMSI, said that the NAVI project took about a year to fructify with the main guideline being to develop a product that costs less than Rs 40,000 and aimed at the young Indian buyer in the 18-24 age group.
HMSI set to be Honda's No. 1 subsidary globally
The NAVI is likely to see good volumes since it is the cheapest Honda on two wheels in India and possibly the world. It also comes at a time when HMSI is set to be Honda’s largest subsidiary unit globally in terms of sales, which are projected to be 4.6 million units in 2015-16. For 2016-17, the company is targeting 5.4 million units.
HMSI currently has three plants in the country – at Manesar in Haryana (1.65 million units per annum), Tapukara in Rajasthan (1.2 million units per annum) and Kolar in Karnataka (1.8 million units per annum). When the fourth plant, which is under construction in Gujarat, goes on stream later this year, HMSI will have a total manufacturing capacity of 5.85 million units.
An comparative analysis of domestic two-wheeler sales in 2014 and 2015 by Autocar Professional has also revealed that HMSI is slowly – and cautiously – closing on to the industry leader – Hero MotoCorp. In terms of sales numbers, while Hero was ahead of Honda by 22,71,825 units in 2014, this difference reduced to 19,82,362 units in CY 2015. The Activa brand of scooters and HMSI's new-found traction in the premium commuter motorcycle domain (150cc-200cc) via its 160cc models (CB Unicorn and CB Hornet 160R) has led the charge for this Japanese manufacturer.
Hero MotoCorp, on the contrary, struggled with its scooter production capacity for close to a year, and also saw drastically falling sales of its Karizma and other models. The Passion brand, too, saw declining sales in November and December 2015 as a result of slowing commuter bike sales in the slowdown-hit rural India.