Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) is aiming to increase volumes in the mid-size motorcycle (above 300 cc) category in India, where it currently has a 6 percent share of the total segment of 600,000 units in year

Honda says that riding culture is gaining ground in India and there is a boom in the 250-500cc segment, which saw over 60,000 units launched between October 2020 and June 2022, largely due to a successful foray H’ness CB300 twins in the market two years ago. According to the company’s forecasts, the segment should grow to 1 million units by 2025.

On August 8, HMSI unveiled a brand new 300cc offering – the CB300F – with street fighter credentials. Priced at Rs 226,000 (ex-showroom New Delhi), it will be manufactured at the company’s local Gujarat plant in Vitthalpur once the main two-wheeler reaches product saturation at the Manesar plant for the 250cc and above models. The company has also invested in localizing this 300cc liquid-cooled engine in Gujarat and is also exporting it to markets like Thailand.

Market entry planning

The premium offering will be sold through 100 HMSI BigWing outlets across 95 cities, which currently gives Honda a 50 per cent share of the mid-size market. The goal is to expand to 250-300 outlets in 150 cities by 2025 and deepen market penetration to 70 percent in the said segment.

However, some of the BigWing touchpoints are slated to come up in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, with no plans to expand the flagship BigWing Topline showrooms of 8 in Gurugram, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata and Indore.

The company is optimistic about its performance despite the pandemic and chip shortages that are gradually easing “thanks to supply chain improvements,” said Atsushi Ogata, MD, president and CEO.

Ogata went on to say that despite seeing a decline in the last three years, “the overall two-wheeler market in India definitely seems to be making a comeback.”

He is optimistic about the recovery in demand in the scooter segment with the resumption of schools and colleges as well as the IT industry in places like Bengaluru and Hyderabad – the chosen location for the launch of the CB300F. “The situation has been improving since the beginning of FY23 and there is a positive momentum even in rural areas,” Ogata said.

With no other launches planned in the mid-size motorcycle segment this year, Honda says it intends to introduce more models in the 300-350cc category next year.

Emissions problems ahead

However, the company is also cautious about FY24 as it has to meet the upcoming OBD-II standards as a gradual step towards the BS VI emission regime. The company will also begin upgrading its gasoline engines to be Ethanol 20 (E20) compatible starting in April 2023 and plans to convert the entire model range to E20 compatibility by April 2025.

“Although we have the ethanol blending technology ready, BS VI with ethanol will be a first even for Honda globally and we will expand our flex fuel engine line-up after 2025 as per government directives,” Ogata said.

“Next year we will certainly see challenges in the form of new emission norms, but the market potential is there and HMSI will introduce new technologies. We are confident of growth in the coming years,” he signed.

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