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Honda still in search of the elusive Royal Enfield rival

Honda has been most vocal about its ambitions in the segment that is otherwise dominated by Royal Enfield

October 22, 2018 / 12:48 PM IST
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Honda Africa Twin is a 1000cc off-road bike priced at Rs 12.90 lakh

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The stellar rise in Royal Enfield’s popularity and volumes will likely remain unchallenged for some more time as Honda is yet to finalise its product offensive in the same segment.

A senior official from Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI), the second largest two-wheeler maker, said though the niche segment controlled by Royal Enfield is ‘very important’ to the company, it is yet to have a challenger brand.

“That is one of the biggest challenges for us. We have been undertaking customer surveys and product development. As of today, I am sorry to say we don’t have anything concrete to say”, Minoru Kato, President and CEO, HMSI told Moneycontrol.

At present, Honda does not have a product in its global portfolio that could be a like-to-like challenger to the Royal Enfield range. Honda has the CB1100 that carries the 1970s styling, strapped with a four cylinder engine unit, along with the Rebel, a modern day cruiser.


Honda has been most vocal about its ambitions in the segment that is otherwise dominated by Royal Enfield.


But others too have plans.

Classic Legends, the vertical of Mahindra & Mahindra’s two wheeler business, will bring back the Jawa brand to India with the launch of a 300cc bike on November 15. With a retro, modern classic look, the Jawa will compete against the 350cc models of Royal Enfield. This will be the first real attempt by any company to take on Royal Enfield’s product range.

Two years ago Pune-based Bajaj Auto did try to position its roadster called Dominar against Royal Enfield backed by an advertising and marketing campaign that mocked bikes of Royal Enfield. However, the Dominar, which is Bajaj’s most powerful bike sells just around 1,500-2,000 units a month.

New team

Last year, Honda formed a team that was tasked to hunt for solutions against the Royal Enfield range. This even included a bike that could be modelled around the Scrambler, a modern-day roadster from Volkswagen-owned Italian biking giant Ducati.

But Honda’s motorcycle range has not had a very fruitful run in the domestic market. More than half of Honda’s domestic volumes accrue from sale of scooters, even though its motorcycle offering of 11 models is more than twice the five models that the scooter segment sells.

At 1.1 million units, Honda’s sales grew 6.26 percent, less than half of the industry’s growth of 13.18 percent during the first half of the current financial year, according to data supplied by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).

Honda’s current motorcycle range have engines ranging between 110cc-250cc and are targeted at the commuter and budget performance segment. Royal Enfield’s smallest engine is a single cylinder 350cc and the biggest will be seen on the soon-to-be-launched twin cylinder 650cc.

The Eicher Motors-controlled Royal Enfield saw sales of 8.01 lakh last year, a growth of 23 percent over 2016-17 volumes of 6.51 lakh. The company has reported remarkable growth in the past few years.

From monthly sales of 14,500 units recorded in 2013, Royal Enfield’s domestic monthly run rate has zoomed to 70,000 units as of last month. The Classic range is the most cherished brand within this portfolio accounting for more than 60 percent of its volumes.
Swaraj Baggonkar
first published: Oct 22, 2018 12:48 pm

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