Updated: Mar 15, 2021
Honda Cars India stepped in the Indian soil way back in 1995 and set up its first manufacturing plant at Greater Noida in 1997. Honda Motor Company had entered the Indian market by a Joint Venture with Usha International Ltd and the JV company was initially called as Honda Siel Cars India Ltd. Usha International later divested its shares in the company in 2012 and the company was now called Honda Cars India Ltd.
The initial capacity of the Greater Noida plant was 30,000 cars per year; which was later increased to 50,000 cars on a two-shift basis. The capacity was further enhanced to 100,000 units annually in 2008. This expansion led to an increase in the covered area in the plant from 107,000 square metres (1,150,000 sq ft) to over 130,000 m2 (1,400,000 sq ft). Honda set up its second plant in India at Tapukara in Alwar District of Rajasthan, spread over 450 acres (1.8 km2) with an investment of ₹3526 crores!
Honda has been successful in selling one of the longest-running sedan nameplate in India – City. The sedan marked Honda’s entrance into the Indian market in 1998 and it quickly became a success and one of the top-selling cars in its segment. It helped Honda establish itself as a premium car maker in the Indian market and customers used to look up to the brand with admiration. It had the Japanese Durability, Quality & Reliability and won many fans over these years. However; it was often criticized for not having a diesel model in the portfolio and later the brand was questioned for its varying quality levels in the models. The OEM is still dependent on Sedans for its sales volumes – In Oct’20; over 83% of Honda’s volumes came from its sedans (Amaze, City & Civic).
We shall explain through the Lifecycle Analysis on how the Honda Models made the brand it's today –
1. Discontinued Models:
Accord Old (Jun’01 to Oct’14) – The Global 8th Gen Accord was launched in India in 2001 and it was primarily the model which was assembled in Thailand. The model was one of the most luxurious and spacious car of its era and attracted a lot of buyers. Honda sold around 37,362 units in the 13 years lifetime. Honda surprisingly decided to let go the nameplate in India as the Global 9th gen Accord was launched elsewhere.
Brio (Sep’11 to Mar’19) – Brio was introduced in 2011 and since then became the smallest car in Honda’s global line-up! The model was manufactured from Honda’s Greater Noida plant and over 80% of its parts were sourced from Indian suppliers! It helped Honda launch the model at a starting price of ₹3,95,000. The Brio’s planned launch in India was delayed from early 2011 due to the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. However; the model saw good demand initially – But, sales took a hit again when Honda’s Thailand plant had to shut down due to the massive Bangkok floods. Critical components for the Brio come from Thailand and hence its Indian production stopped for more than a month, resuming only on 15 February 2012. The sales took off and the model registered its all-time highest monthly sales in Mar’12 when 6,355 Brio were sold in that month! However; Brio volumes dipped year after year and Honda decided to discontinue the model in February 2019, leaving the Amaze as the entry level offering for the Indian market.
Civic Old (Jun’06 to Feb’13) – It was undoubtedly Honda’s most futuristic model in the Indian lineup and won many fans to the brand. The Global Eight Gen Civic was launched in June’06 and was an instant hit! The model sold a crazy 19,075 units in its first 12 months with an average monthly volume of 1,590 units/month. However; Honda decided to shelve the model in Feb’13 and could never bring the Global 9th Gen model to Indian soil which was such a disappointment for the Indian fans.
BRV (Apr’16 to Jan’20) – The model shared its platform with the second-generation Mobilio, which itself was based on the lengthened Brio platform. As the model shared many bits from the cheaper sibling Brio – It received a lot of flak and in a way was demeaning to Honda brand. The model didn’t perform as per expectations and was discontinued just within 4 years of launch. It anyhow sold just 39,148 units during its lifetime in the Indian market.
Jazz 1st Gen (May’09 to Feb’13) – It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the 1st Gen Jazz was way ahead of time and practically India’s first Premium hatchback! Honda had launched the Jazz in India in 2009 with 26 percent import content which led to high initial cost of the car. Even though the customers admired the model; they weren’t just ready to pay the price premium for a ‘hatchback’. The model sold just 23,173 units until Feb’13.
Mobilio (July’14 to Mar’17) – The Mobilio was introduced into the Indian market in July 2014. It was based on the Brio platform and that became the model’s biggest problem. The model had all the essential bits and practicality of an MPV – However; the cost and similarity with Brio wasn’t accepted by buyers and couldn’t sell well in the subcontinent. Only 40,793 units were sold during its lifetime.
Accord New (Oct’16 to Sep’17) – In a desperate bid to regain its premium tag; Honda decided to renew Accord nameplate for the Indian market. The hybrid avatar of the model was launched and the steep initial price just nailed the coffin. The model couldn’t even sell 100 units in its second run in the Indian market and was discontinued within 1 year of its launch!
List of Honda Cars models currently on sale in India –
Honda City – City nameplate has been synonymous with brand Honda in India. City was built on Honda’s Global Small Car platform, which is shared with the Fit/Jazz globally. The sedan marked Honda’s entrance in the Indian market in 1998 and it quickly became a success and one of the top selling cars in its segment. It came with a 1.3-litre and a 1.5-litre engine.Sales of the City in India contributes to 25 percent of global sales and the City has been Honda’s best selling model in India right since beginning. Even now there are months; where City sales have been very similar to that our much cheaper Amaze sedan. The City in the past 22 years has gone multiple changes (5 generations to be precise) and the same has been evident on the overall sales of the model –
Honda CR-V – The global second generation was launched in the Indian market in 2003 (as a CBU). The car was powered by a K24A1 engine, it was a 2-litre motor capable of producing 160hp of power and about 190Nm of peak torque. Though the car for south-east Asia was detuned and it produced 150hp of power and same torque figures. CR-V can be termed as India’s First Compact Crossover or Soft Roader SUV. While the buyers in the premium segment were aligned towards Sedans, CR-V did a phenomenal job to pull them towards SUVs. The model saw 5 generation changes and the current model is 5th generation in the iteration.
Honda Amaze – Honda launched the Amaze in India in April 2013 and was developed at Honda R&D Asia Pacific Co., Ltd. situated at Bangkok, Thailand. It is also the smallest sedan in Honda’s global line-up. Amaze was Honda’s first diesel offering in India. The Amaze, now in its second-generation, is currently Honda’s largest selling model in India. The model has sold over 4.16 Lakh units till date and has been the OEMs second most successful car in the Indian market (after City).
Honda Jazz (New) – Inspired by Hyundai i20’s success; Honda was eager to renew the Jazz nameplate and relaunched the model in June 2015. This time Honda bought it in both Petrol & Diesel engine configurations. Also CVT automatic was offered in Petrol. It worked really well and sold 44,742 units in the first 12 months of the launch. However; Maruti launched the Baleno in October 2015 and snatched the party. Jazz just couldn’t compete with the feature loaded and much cheaper Maruti offering. Also Hyundai had aggressively pushed i20 dispatches to avoid consumers moving away from the brand. The sales eventually faded for Jazz and Honda’s inaction in terms of revising the price/features costed it dearly. Even the Mid-life Facelift (launched in 2020) didn’t boast of major price/feature upgrades.
Honda WR-V – WR-V was Honda’s answer to the Sub-4m Compact SUV race. Based on the Jazz platform; Honda had beefed up the model to look more muscular and added a Sunroof along with higher ground clearance. Similar to all Honda models; even WR-V received tremendous response and garnered 23,000 booking in less than four months after launch. The model outsold the sibling Jazz and gave hopes of revival to Honda. However; the lame petrol engine and unavailability of automatic option led to the downfall and the model couldn’t protect its share from the likes of Nexon, Venue or Brezza. The sales is currently averaging to just 743 units / month (FY21).
Honda Civic (10th Gen) – In lieu to get its premium brand tag back; Honda decided to bring in the Civic nameplate again to the Indian market. But the timing couldn’t have been more wrong – Even though the model emerged as the segment leader; the volumes have been negligible. Only 6,010 units were sold since the model was launched (in the past 20 months). With the oust of Accord; Civic now remains the costliest Honda sedan to be on sale in India.
Honda Cars dependency on Sedans has been perennial. While it started out its journey with City; it is now relying on Amaze for volumes. But the Indian market has gone through a lot of change and the consumers are now aligned towards SUVs. Honda has tremendous brand equity and is still revered for Japanese reliability. So; what does Honda need to gain a stronger foothold in the Indian market? We believe all of us know the answer.