The slowdown is hitting the auto industry hard, especially bike makers. Hero Honda has managed to buck the trend due to its high volumes entry motorcycles. So, to keep the momentum going, the company has introduced the new Passion Pro Power Start. The 100cc bike aims to capture aspirational buyers who don’t want to spend too much.
The Passion Pro has a tweaked engine which the company claims is more efficient. It also sports more aesthetically pleasing body graphics, red rear springs, a new instrument cluster, a tinted visor and an electric start. It’s a smooth ride, though I found nothing sensationally new. The Passion Pro feels just like another Hero Honda in its segment. The pick-up is decent and the ride stable. The bike does not inspire confidence at very high speeds, though: I’d say it is best to stay in the 60kmph range, especially in city traffic. The Passion Pro is priced at Rs44,000, ex-Delhi, and comes in six colours, including a new bright neon green.
But that is not all from the market leader. To liven up its festive season sales, Hero Honda has also introduced facelifted versions of three other products. The 100cc Splendor NXG Power Start now has a slightly new look with new body graphics—besides the electric start, of course. The CBZ-Xtreme also gets a makeover. This 150cc bike now manages to look menacing, and stylish, with subtle yet sleek graphics and two-tone mirrors. This should help Hero Honda take some attention away from the TVS Apache, currently the hot favourite among younger buyers due to its mean styling. Finally, the Pleasure scooterette, endorsed by actor Priyanka Chopra, also gets a do-over—though the changes (like a new instrument panel) are so few that you might not really spot them. All the bikes are already available at Hero Honda dealers.
Interestingly, Hero Honda did not organize a launch event for any of these products—it just sent out a press release. I guess the current slowdown will see companies saving every penny they can!
TALK AND DRIVE
Talking on your phone while driving is illegal. In some states, even the use of wired or Bluetooth hands-free devices is banned. So here’s something that might help those who must stay connected when on the move. Sony Ericsson will soon launch the new HCB-150 car phone accessory. This gadget can be clipped to the sun visor in your car, or strapped on to the dash. It’s essentially a Bluetooth device that connects with your phone and has its own speaker and microphone so you can take calls without touching your phone. While we have seen such devices in the past, the HCB-150’s USP is that it lets you access your phone’s contacts, the last few calls made or received, and also allows you to make calls. The device has a screen display which the driver can glance at on the go. And to enhance safety, the gadget can store 20 most used numbers. If a call comes in from one of those, it announces the name of the person. This way the user need not look away from the road to find out who is calling. I found the HCB-150 handy and safe—it picks up your voice very easily, so any caller can hear you right, and you don’t get distracted.
Power ride: Honda’s Passion Pro
Sony Ericsson will launch the HCB-150 in India by the end of November, and its expected price range is Rs5,900-6,200.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is editor, auto, NDTV. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org