Representative Image (REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta)
The close contest between two former friends Hero and Honda saw the Indian heavyweight take the lead last year when the Splendor snatched the top spot from Activa.
The Hero Splendor clocked sales of 2.63 million units in FY20 as against 2.59 million units clocked by Honda Activa during the same year. In FY19 it was the Activa that finished first followed by the Splendor. The two brands have been engaged in an intense fight since the past few years to claim the title of India’s largest-selling two-wheeler brand.
While Hero MotoCorp has maintained its stranglehold in the hinterlands of India riding on its marketing promise of offering better fuel-efficient Honda has steadfastly replaced entry-level bikes like Splendor in urban pockets where utility value has played a major role in decision making.
The rivalry gained greater significance because both companies, who were in a 27-year-old partnership, developed products to counter each other’s strengths but none managed to sway the customers.
Hero, for instance, launched series of scooters under brands Pleasure, Maestro, Destini and Duet to counter the Honda Activa. However, despite its massive dealership reach, the Munjal-family promoted company held a share of 7 percent in FY20 in the scooter segment down from 11 percent in FY19. Honda controlled 57 percent of the scooter market in FY20.
Similarly, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) launched CD 110, Dream Neo, Dream Yuga and Livo 110 to counter Hero Splendor’s dominance. HMSI finished FY20 with a share of 5 percent in the less than 110cc motorcycle segment while Hero controlled 72 percent of the same market led by Splendor.
One of the reasons behind higher sales of the Splendor is better demand drive in the rural pockets compared to urban centers during FY20. Bountiful rains, government-powered employment schemes, availability of finance and improved road conditions helped the Splendor reclaim the top spot.
“The Splendor brand includes a range of products such as Splendor+, iSmart, and Super Splendor. The Splendor brand sold 2,632,800 units in FY'20 becoming the highest-selling two-wheeler in the country in FY'20”, said a spokesperson from Hero MotoCorp. The Splendor brand controlled 23 percent of India’s motorcycle market.
The Activa became one of the first two-wheeler brands in India to get the Bharat Stage VI (BS-VI) engine upgrade. Honda has upped the fuel efficiency of the Activa to 60 km/litre closer to the Splendor’s claimed 70 km/litre. Multiple variants of the Activa together grabbed 47 percent share of the scooter market last year.
“The launch of Activa 6G in January 2020 was the most awaited launch of the year and the response from the customers is overwhelming. With excellent new product feedback, many happy users and ready availability of BS-VI stocks at our network, we are on a strong platform to take-off post lockdown; however the quantum depends on when business resumes and time taken to return to normalcy,” said a spokesperson of HMSI.
Prediction of a normal monsoon is the only silver lining for the auto industry this year which has otherwise been battered by the slowdown in previous months followed by the complete suspension in sales due to the nation-wide lockdown. Demand sentiments are expected to remain low for multiple quarters, fear market watchers.
“We anticipate that post the lockdown, as society practices social distancing as a new norm, customer buying too may be restricted to essential requirements only for another 3 to 6 months. Yet, we are still hopeful that the market may see some uptake from festival season onwards on back of normal monsoon forecast and a good harvest”, added the HMSI spokesperson.