Even as Honda India looks to gain market share beyond its premium flagship brand City, the Japanese automaker is putting its best foot foward to make the subcontinent a key market in its global portfolio
Even as Honda India looks to gain market share beyond its premium flagship brand City, the Japanese automaker is putting its best foot foward to make the subcontinent a key market in its global portfolio. In an interview with Moneycontrol's Swaraj Baggonkar, Yoichiro Ueno, President and Chief Executive of Honda Cars India, said models will be more "considerate with different requirements for the India market''. Excerpts from the exclusive interview.
Q. Honda failed to capitalize on segments beyond the City
A. We don’t have any intention to keep any specific model as a brand image alive. We treat all models equally. Of course the volume is small (of other models). We like to do our best to enhance sales and brand of all models. We would like to achieve that kind of premium image not by specific models. It takes a bit of time to change the specifications and designs. But we want to shift in that direction in the coming few years.
Q. Has Honda been slow in adapting to changes in the market?
A. Speaking about speed, we are not really different from the others. The biggest difference is that Suzuki may be selling more than half of its global volume in India. Because of that reason they can really focus on the Indian market. On the contrary Honda India is the fourth biggest market for Honda. However, percentage-wise India is 5 percent of global sales units. The line-up in India is shared with other countries. That is making a different impression of Honda.
Q. Maruti and Hyundai are able to adapt to Indian market because of their local R&D strength. When will Honda start something like this?
A. We also established a R&D facility in India whose main focus initially was to develop localization programmes – how to design parts to be making suitable for India. They are also carefully monitoring market situations, giving a lot of feedback to the head office.
Q. Do we see a India-focused product from Honda?
A. May be not exclusive models for India but may be with those initiatives future models will be more considerate with different requirements for the India market. The weightage of the Indian market is getting bigger and bigger. We are selling the City in 100 countries but India is the biggest market for it. Our development team has to consider all countries but give more priority to Indian market.
Q. With your focus shifting to premium segment will you give up on the sub-4 meter segment?
A. Cars less than 4 meters have an advantage. In the last 2-3 years we focused on vehicles less than 4 meters like Amaze and Brio. Because of the big size of the City it was very successful. However, in terms of brand image we need to maintain our presence in over 4 meter segment. We need to balance our portfolio.
Q. Does Toyota-Suzuki deal impact Honda India strategy?
A. So far we don’t see any direct impact. However Toyota is very strong in hybrid technologies or other advanced technologies. Also, the government of India is very keen to implement the strong regulations. So the synergy between Toyota and Suzuki, Suzuki can more comfortably accommodate the regulations.
Q. In Gujarat you have bought 800 acres. When do we see production happening from there?
A. It depends on our sales pace. Currently, we have our 240,000 capacity in Noida and Tapukara. Currently, our sales are not exceeding that capacity; we have to exceed that capacity in order to further expand capacity. However, Tapukara plant has some space to increase production. If we exceed 240,000 units not really necessary to build a new factory. May be it will take a while. We don’t have any specific timing to start a new factory.