Mumbai/New Delhi: Hero Honda Motors Ltd (soon to be renamed Hero MotoCorp. Ltd), India’s largest two-wheeler maker by sales, is preparing to introduce at least three new models before the end of the year, with the first of these being a dirt bike that it will launch under its new name after a split with Japan’s Honda Motor Co. Ltd, its partner of 26 years.
Five people with knowledge of the development independently confirmed the company’s plan. None of them wanted to be identified.
Honda will continue to provide technology for some new models to the Indian firm under an agreement that is valid till June 2014.
Hero Honda’s spokesman declined to comment.
According to one of the persons directly involved in the project, the launch is a significant one by the Gurgaon-based two-wheeler maker. “Not only will this be the country’s first dirt bike, but also the first (of Hero Honda’s motorcycles) to be launched under the new brand name.”
Mint reported on 13 May that Hero Honda plans to spend Rs 175 crore on an image makeover.
After the company’s break-up with Honda, the Japanese firm’s name will be dropped from its motorcycles.
With an engine displacement of 180cc, the dirt bike will be Hero’s first in the niche segment.
Imported in completely knocked down, or CKD, form from Honda Motor, the dirt bike will be assembled in Hero Honda’s Gurgaon factory. A second person with knowledge of the launch said it would be priced between Rs 1.1 lakh and Rs 1.3 lakh.
The two other motorcycles Hero Honda plans to launch are in the 100cc and 125cc segments.
Mahantesh Sabarad, an analyst at brokerage Fortune Equity Brokers (India) Ltd, said the new models will work in Hero Honda’s favour.
“With the Glamour not doing well, it badly needs a motorcycle in the 125cc segment,” he said.
Vehicles of this engine capacity account for one-fourth of all motorcycles sold in India, Sabarad added.
Two-wheeler sales in India expanded by one-fourth to 1.1 million units in the fiscal year ended 31 March, according to industry lobby Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.
Hero Honda has got clearance from the Registrar of Companies to change its name to Hero MotoCorp.
The new brand identity of the company is expected to be unveiled on 14 July.
On 17 June, the Hero Honda board will meet at its Haridwar plant in Uttarakhand to approve the new brand name.
Hero Honda’s move to introduce a sports bike comes at a time when rival Bajaj Auto Ltd is also set to launch similar two-wheelers from KTM Power Sports AG.
Bajaj Auto holds around 39% in the Austrian bike maker. The bikes, to be launched early next fiscal year, will be assembled at the company’s factory in Chakan, near Pune in Maharashtra.
Motorcycle makers Yamaha Motor Co., Suzuki Motorcycle Corp. and Honda are targeting the growing number of upwardly mobile young people in India with relatively expensive products priced at more than Rs 1 lakh.