Home >Companies >People >Brijmohan Lall Munjal’s unfulfilled desire to make cars

New Delhi: “Yes, I had a dream and I still have a dream," the late Brijmohan Lall Munjal, chairman emeritus of Hero Motorcorp Ltd, had once told Gita Piramal, a business historian and post-doctoral fellow at Oxford University.

The dream of the founder of India’s largest two-wheeler maker who died at the age of 92 in Delhi on 1 November was to make a four-wheeler. “We had a long chat with Honda to make cars—they would have been only too happy to partner with us for the project—but somehow it did not click," he said.

Munjal’s ambition to make cars in India took a hit when Honda allowed Delhi-based Shriram Group to make cars under a new company called Honda Siel Cars India Ltd in 1995. The company changed its name to Honda Cars India Ltd (HCIL) and became a 100% subsidiary of Honda in 2012.

The agreement between Hero Group and the Japanese Honda Motor Co. was to renew their licensing agreement every 10 years. The first 10 years—from 1984 to 1994—passed off well as both matched each other’s expectations.

But when the talks for the second round began in the early 90s, India was opening up. Honda saw in it a sleeping giant. Also by then, the Indian motorcyle market was crowded and Munjal wanted to branch out.

While Honda allowed him with his long-standing desire to make scooters, the Japanese company partnered with Pune-based Firodia Group’s Kinetic Engineering Ltd to make 125cc motorcycles. Honda clearly was playing it safe. However, Kinetic continued to make only scooters. It was also then that Honda partnered with Shriram Group for a car in India.

Later on in 1996, Munjal’s nephew and O.P. Munjal’s son Pankaj Munjal entered into talks with BMW AG for a 50:50 joint venture partnership to assemble cars and 650cc motorcycles in the country, but the plan remained a non-starter.

The dream of making of a car seems to be on the backburner, but it is still there. Pawan Munjal, chairman of Hero MotoCorp and son of BM Munjal, could venture out to make cars one day. But for now his priority is to strengthen Hero’s solo ride in the world of two-wheelers.

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