Hyderabad: Japanese car major Honda plans to introduce new products, including SUV and bigger sedans, as well as add more features in future models to regain lost ground in the Indian market.
Aware of the change in market dynamics with a big shift from A and B segments to premium side, the company is gearing up to meet the new demand in India. “The market is changing. We are seeing a big shift from A, B categories to upper segment and that’s why Maruti and Hyundai are also trying to move to the premium side. So, we are also carefully monitoring this segment movement,” Honda Cars India president and CEO Yoichiro Ueno told PTI.
Besides, there is growth in the SUV segment so that’s also a big change, he added. Asked if the company plans to launch a new SUV model soon, Ueno said: “You can expect, yes,” he said. When asked if the model could be HR-V, he said: “It really depends on customers’ voice. If there is a lot of demand or request, then we might look at it.”
Admitting that the gap between products in different segments has not helped the company, Ueno said: “There is a lot of demand to upgrade from City to bigger cars and unfortunately, we don’t have a bigger car... Especially the dealers are requesting. They don’t want to lose these City customers to other brands.”
Ueno added: “We are receiving a lot of request to reinforce the SUV market, we have CR-V but practically City is the flagship model.” Stressing on the need to be nimble-footed and deliver products which customers want in a fast changing market, Ueno said: “We think it is very important to catch up.” When asked if the company plans to develop models specifically for Indian market, Ueno said: “At the moment, our strategy is to bring global models rather than exclusively develop for any specific market.” The shift in demand from diesel to petrol in India has also resulted in the company losing ground and it was late to adapt to the changes.
“Unfortunately, from end of last year to this year, there was mismatching of the inventory. Our inventory was not matching the market demand,” he said. However, by July this year, “dealer supplies normalized and so the situation is now coming back to normal”.
In April-September this fiscal, the company’s domestic sales were down 23% at 74,855 units while its sales in September fell 18.77% to 15,034 units.
On Honda’s current product line-up, Ueno said the BR-V is on Honda’s current product line-up, Ueno said the BR-V is doing well and “it’s on track” of the target set by the company. However, it is not doing as well as some other brands. I think we might be able to increase sales”. He admitted that there is a mismatch in the company’s product line-up and expectations of the customers. “Currently, we are concentrating on really matching price with the competitors. Maybe, the specifications are not meeting the customers’ expectations. So, such kinds of discrepancies I think are happening,” he said.
Ueno felt that the company cannot afford to give up on volume products like Brio and Amaze and would like to reposition them in the market with better features. “They are big volume market (products). However, maybe, the positioning in the segment can be aligned. Honda cars have been on the premium side within the segments. I think we can do it,” he said. Honda is receiving a lot of feedback from customers that it should have more features even if the the price might be on the higher side.
“For the future models, we are planning to add more features. We were thinking that Indian car market is price sensitive. However, customer expectations have to be balanced,” Ueno made it clear. According to the CEO, the company has just taken a price hike and most probably will take a call again on the issue only next year. “Exchange rate is tough. So, if it continues to be so, then slight adjustment may be necessary, but definitely not this year. We have just increased the prices. This year, we won’t touch the prices. Next year due to GST, there might be a one-time alignment,” he said. Asked if the company would keep selling MPV Mobilio, he said: “We will continue. Sales are gradually increasing. So, we will keep it.” PTI