A round table conference was held with Honda Cars India Limited’s Sr. Vice President (Marketing & Sales), Mr. Jnaneswar Sen. Mr. Sen said that 2013-14 fiscal year was very fruitful for the company as Honda sold 1.34 lakh cars with a growth rate of 83% (its highest since its entry into the sub-continent); apart from that the company also started its second manufacturing unit in Tapukara, Rajasthan. He said that 2014 would be an exciting year for the company as they would be launching two new cars with the Mobilio in the MPV segment and Jazz carrying the premium hatchback tag.

Coming to Honda Mobilio; this three row 7-seater MPV would be launched in the second quarter of this fiscal year. The Mobilio would be powered by both petrol and diesel engines, that the City has been using. The Mobilio would be manufactured in the Greater Noida facility. No more details were furnished but Mr. Sen promised that Honda Mobilio would be fuel efficient, the build quality would be good and it will be priced very competitively. When asked if the new MPV would be competing with the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga or Toyota Innova; he said that the Mobilio would be establishing a new segment and cannot be compared to the Japanese MPVs. He also said that the company is expecting the Mobilio to be a good chunk in this year’s sales.

Mr. Sen said that Honda was now focusing more on volume based vehicles. The company is looking forward to expand its dealerships from 170 to 230 outlets. The automaker is also looking forward to expand its geographical footprint by increasing its dealerships from 2 to 6 in the North East. Out of the 60 new dealerships, 47 new dealerships would be opened in tier-3 cities which make it clearly evident that Honda would be focusing particularly on sales.

How is the new Honda Jazz different? – The premium class Jazz will retain its cabin space and will be sportier. This hatchback would be localised up to 73% hence it could be carrying a similar price tag when compared to the older one. The Jazz would be available with both petrol and diesel engines which again are borrowed from the Amaze. The Jazz would also be available in manual and automatic transmission. So far a manufacturing unit has not been allocated to this premium hatchback.

Will Jazz eat some market share of Amaze? – Jazz may eat up a small margin of the Amaze but ruled out being a threat to the compact sedan. He said that psychographic profile of both the vehicles are very different, one being a compact sedan while the other being a premium hatchback.

When asked about new launches? – Honda will be launching the new Jazz this year and Accord sometime in the next year with the possibility of bringing the hybrid quite likely. When asked if the company is planning Vezel for India, he said that the company doesn’t feel that the Vezel would fit in the Indian market and hence ruled it out. He also said that Honda is still doing a case study on compact SUV and has taken no decision on that. Mr. Sen also ruled out launching the next generation Civic putting a full stop to the C-segment performance car. The recently showcased Honda NSX is also not scheduled for India. Honda will not be upgrading the CR-V in the coming days and diesel variant of the Brio is also not on the cards.

Current Scenario – The Diesel-Petrol ratio of the City is said to be somewhere at 55-45. Currently Honda is churning out 1.8 lakh units, combined from its Greater Noida and Tapukara plants. The full capacity of both the units is 2.4 lakh units per annum. The average waiting period for the City is three months while that of the Amaze is three weeks. He said that the plant has been running on the third shift to keep the waiting period low. Honda has exported 6000 units of the Amaze and Brio last year and is hoping to reach the 10,000 mark this year.

Future – Despite economic slowdown, the company is looking towards a bright future with projections showing a double digit growth rate. He also said that a stable government would be playing an important role for sales of the coming year.

When asked about the expectation from the new government? – The company is optimistic that the excise cut will prevail even after June 30th but there is also possibility to roll back the excise duty by the new government. He also said that the sky rocketing prices are not mainly because of excise duty but because of VAT and taxes imposed by the state governments.

Target Sales – Honda is hoping that it would sell 2 lakh units this year and 3 lakh units in 2016-17. Last fiscal year, Honda sold 4.4 million units worldwide out of which India’s share was 3%. Mr. Sen said that in 2016-17 the company is eyeing to roll out 6 million units worldwide out of which India’s share would be 5%.