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Honda to accelerate compact sports utility vehicle plans

Thursday, 9 January 2014 - 11:43am IST | Agency: DNA

Year 2013 was the best year for the Japanese carmaker Honda in India, thanks to Amaze, the compact sedan it launched last year, which also marked its entry into the diesel segment.
Expanding the portfolio, the company has launched its flagship City and is hoping to regain the market leadership in the segment. 2014 is expected to be equally exciting for the Japanese automaker as it will be launching two more products covering segments like multi-purpose vehicle. Hironori Kanayama, president & CEO Honda Cars India, spoke to Yuga Chaudhari on the company’s plans.

You have already received 9,400 bookings for the new City and Amaze now is consistently doing 6,000 numbers a month. Post the success of your new models, are you looking at any bigger product plan for the Indian market?
We think sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment is very attractive and positive. We have been thinking about it.

How do you plan to have a bigger presence in the SUV segment?
Honda’s contemplating global sales of 6 million units in fiscal 2016-17. By that time Honda will come up with a new model, which doesn’t exist at present.

Would you look at introducing a sub 4-metre compact SUV and by when?
That’s one of the choices. I want to accelerate it. We are in discussion with Honda. Therefore, I cannot tell you the timeframe. Right now, we don’t have a product in the global portfolio.

Lot of speculations on whether Honda will be launching Vezel (compact SUV) in India...
I can say – yes and no. We are still studying the possibility. Vezel can be one of the choices if not that (new compact SUV) car.

Would you look at a greater presence in the mass volume category? Will Brio continue to remain the entry-level car for Honda?
We will consider as part of our long-term plan. We don’t have any specific plan at present. Whether we will launch in 2 or 3 years, I can’t say.

How do you see the car market shaping up in year 2014?
I don’t think things will change in a better or worse way till any new measure is introduced by the new government after the general elections, which I think will happen in the second half of the year. So market may not pick up as we would have expected.

With new product introductions in pipeline, what is the market share that you are targeting this year?
We don’t target market share because it varies. It depends on market size. Even if we attain suppose 10% market share, and if the market degrows, it doesn’t really make sense. Therefore we don’t have any specific market share target.

In case of new City, our target is to be the segment number one.

Is the narrowing gap between petrol and diesel worrying?
For Amaze, the diesel contributes about 70% and we are expecting a similar trend for City as well. For us whatever customers buy is not a problem. We can supply both the variants.

Do you plan to export City?
Our priority is India customers. Therefore, we are not thinking of exports for the time being.

Your new plant at Rajasthan will be operational this quarter. Could you share the plans on which models would you look at manufacturing there?

It is possible that we manufacture our upcoming products there. We have, however, not made any decision on this regard. We are still studying. Production plan depends on the response our new vehicle.

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