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Will the new City 2017 be a game changer for Honda in India?

The new 2017 City sedan may change the fortunes of Honda Cars in India. The car manufacturer, which was once perceived as the epitome of premium motoring, today faces customer backlash in the country due to its localization drive and seems to have lost its sheen.

By Chanchal Pal Chauhan        Last Updated: February 9, 2017  | 15:47 IST
Will the new City 2017 be a game changer for Honda in India?

Chanchal Pal Chauhan, Senior Assistant Editor, Business Today
The new 2017 City sedan may change the fortunes of Honda Cars in India. The car manufacturer, which was once perceived as the epitome of premium motoring, today faces customer backlash in the country due to its localization drive and seems to have lost its sheen.

However, with the new version of City, the car maker would like to get its leadership back, which was lost in its ambitious localization drive -- a move to source parts and components from local market to cut costs -- which tarnished the brand's image among Indian customers.

Honda City, running into its fourth generation, will come in a refreshed avatar on the Valentine's Day and will be loaded with new bouquet of LED package, enhanced safety package and a new AVN system, among other new offerings.

Honda's flagship model has faced a complete rout from Maruti's biggest sedan Ciaz, which clocks an average monthly sales of 6000 units sales, while City trails with a much slender demand. However, Honda City, first introduced in January 1998, still remains the India's most popular sedan. It has a cumulative customer base of over 6.5 lakh and the current generation, since its launch in January 2014, has sold 2.24 lakh units in the country.

In comparison, Ciaz launched much later had sold 1,40,226 units and has taken a decisive lead to emerge as the most-sold sedan in 2016. "Ciaz started as an outstanding product with great looks, plush interiors and offers generous room and comfort. The introduction of Ciaz SHVS, with new infotainment features kept it ahead in its class. Today, it is the largest selling sedan in the A3+ segment," says RS Kalsi, Executive Director (M&S), Maruti Suzuki.

Honda, too, would like to replicate this success with the new City and get back its legacy in the sedan market.

"The City has been our most successful model ever since the start of operations in the country. It commands tremendous loyalty among customers and we are extremely excited to add another chapter to the success story of the model, with the launch of the new Honda City 2017," said Honda Car India president and CEO, Yoichiro Ueno.

Meanwhile, the pre-launch bookings are underway and so are the numerous recalls, which have further dented Honda's image in India.

Honda stands as the most pro-active company in India on safety and has recalled 579,582 of its cars on the sensitive airbag issue. The latest recall involved 41,580 units of previous generations of Jazz, City, Civic and Accord line-up. In a market like India, where most auto are shy of making recalls fearing strong customer backlash and brand dilution, Honda stands out for recalling most of its cars on issues of passenger safety. Though Honda is perhaps the most respected carmaker for its efforts, its cars have still have lost the touch. And the new City is an attempt by the car maker, to assure the customers on the strength, safety and performance of its cars.

The company that sells eight models in India -- Brio, Jazz, Amaze, Mobilio, City, BR-V, CR-V and the Accord Hybrid -- will have to make a comeback on its strong image of advanced automotive design and technology, if it wants to get its mojo back in the country.

Infographic: Sedan sales for January 2017 vs January 2016

 

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