Opinion: Is the Honda BR-V a good product in the wrong segment?

Honda’s performance in India has been chiefly dependent on two models — Amaze, and City.

By: | Updated: September 30, 2016 1:09 PM
honda br-v-L Honda is pitching the BR-V as a compact SUV. Sorry, but its resemblance to the Mobilio is its Achilles heel. It’s quite a decent drive.

Honda has great brand equity in the Indian market. It always did. That’s why it even enjoys a certain perception and desirability advantage over some of its direct rivals. Lately though, things haven't been moving in its favour like before and the competing brands have been catching up at an ever rapid pace.

I’ve had defending statements from many car makers upon discussing their products and strategies. Questioning a brand or a product for its attribute or positioning is extremely easy after its launch in the market and people might not give a focussed thought on the manufacturers’ effort and investment in building the car itself. Let me say this on behalf of all automotive journalists and analysts — we do. But it’s impossible to escape ground realities. It’s only after a manufacturer introduces a product in the market can anyone do a critical analysis on it — isn't so? Or else involve us in the strategy meetings, perhaps? But that wouldn't be.

READ | Honda BRV prices begin at Rs 8.75 lakh in India; returns 21.9 kmpl mileage

Honda’s performance in India has been chiefly dependent on two models — Amaze, and City. That is despite the fact that it has a reasonably wide portfolio of products, most of which are in the mass segment. Here’s a look at Honda’s range of cars in India: Brio, Jazz, Amaze, Mobilio, BR-V, City, and CR-V. The luxury sedan play will be the responsibility of the Accord which is expected to be launched in the festive season later this year.

The sales of Brio make me saddest. It’s a genuinely pleasing car. Sure, the rear suspension could do with a more planted feel, but the delightfully high-revving engine, small size and a good gearbox make it a really happy puppy of a car. It’s got sufficient space inside as well.

READ | Honda BR-V review: petrol & diesel models driven

So what went against the Brio that it has been a sales disaster for Honda? Sales are dependent on consumers’ reaction to a product when the company launches it.

The Brio has largely been targeted at the Maruti Swift and Hyundai Grand i10. Trouble is, Brio’s styling is borderline love-it-or-hate it and people didn't quite take to its eccentric looks very well. The shape and overall design execution also makes the Brio look smaller than its rivals. It also a curious looking thing and it’s completely fine by me. At least that gives it character. But, consumers’ perception goes a long way in determining the performance of any product. I’ve had people in my own circle of friends and family who didn't buy the Brio purely because “it looks strange”. That makes it a tough sell by default — especially when you’re going after established super performers like the Swift.

I always maintained that it’d have been better if Honda would’ve pitched the Brio against the Hyundai i10 or the Wagon R. You need to think about this. The Swift had a diesel engine making a strong case for it, and the Grand i10, too, came with a diesel motor. And while the petrol engines made for almost 50% of sales, there was still a great market for diesels in this segment. The Brio has never had a diesel engine, and, combined with the perception issues that I mentioned in the previous paragraph, it never really had much in its favour. So, battling in the petrol-only segment where it would’ve looked fittingly close to its rivals might have given it a better, fighting chance of playing the numbers game perhaps.

The MPV segment in India isn't much evolved. It’s only the Toyota Innova that does respectable numbers, and to some extent Maruti gets a few Ertigas on the road (Maruti brand name and network definitely helps). The Mobilio was never really meant to be a market success in a country where MPVs have never done well.

The compact SUV segment is rapidly growing and has the potential to change the performance dynamic and shift the needle in the green for any manufacturer. That’s why every OEM that isn't in this space is taking the plunge and working overtime to develop one.

Honda is pitching the BR-V as a compact SUV. Sorry, but its resemblance to the Mobilio is its Achilles heel. It’s quite a decent drive. But it looks very MPV-ish. In fact, the revised strong and chromed front-end feels inconsistent with the overall design. It also lacks a couple of crucial features.

Additionally, I’ve been reading many comments from digital content consumers across the media sources that people would’ve preferred a 5-seater ‘proper’ crossover rather than a better looking 7-seater that the company already has. Apparently, in the compact SUV segment, 7-seater configuration isn't absorbed very well. That’s why the XUV500 does fine in that category — it has the quintessential ‘SUV’ presence and the traditionally established concept of a proper big, beefy 7 seater. It’s not a compact SUV — it’s simply an SUV. The BR-V is also priced a bit on the higher end. I personally feel it should’ve been priced roughly about Rs 80,000 lower across the variants.

The need was for Honda to introduce the HR-V in India. It has a lovely form to it — looks upmarket and has enough ammunition in perceptive value and product features to lock horns against the Hyundai Creta. The car might be an expensive proposition currently (I hear you Honda), but if reasonably high localisation level can be achieved, there will be enough sales opportunity and scale for numbers to tilt the game in Honda’s favour. It would be an absolutely cracking rival to the likes of Hyundai Creta and Renault Duster, and might even shift customers from the XUV500 in the urban centres. It’ll also do something far greater — enhance the brand image of Honda which has taken a bit of a hit of late. People have been telling me that Honda might want to launch the HR-V against the Hyundai Tucson in the 15-20 lakh bracket, but in my personal view, that might go the wrong way. Honda needs a crossover in the 10-15 lakh bracket, and it has one now, but it’s not the one it should’ve ideally launched.

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  1. R
    Aug 22, 2017 at 6:37 pm
    mostly people want just features in a car and by features more bass to music, more led lights inside and outside, and many buttons. top of all that some way to connect phone to car. Thats the package most of the dumb Indians want. Also a tea or coffee or a cold drink at the dealers showroom boosts s by a lot. And Maruti and Hyundai are perfectly doing that and sadly all the wise and brilliant Indians are flocking to drink those beverages and buy cars!!!
    1. A
      Ajay Raina
      Mar 6, 2017 at 11:47 am
      Best in cl compact MUV...Value for money....Needs some improvement in features.
      1. I
        Isham bin
        Jan 8, 2017 at 2:24 am
        Isham bin yusof, Tung HUP kelapa sawit sdn bhd,lp4 jln bukit garam, poscode 90200 sandakan sabah.
        1. A
          Aug 14, 2016 at 11:24 pm
          Honda is brainless to launch BRV at that pricing without critical features like navigation, reverse parking sensors, cruise control . Surprising lack of common sense and the sheer audacity to ume that Indian customers are dumb enough to buy at such high pricing with no features. Well, the s numbers may force Honda folks to introspect. If they don't, good luck....
          1. A
            a n
            May 12, 2016 at 5:11 am
            1. J
              May 10, 2016 at 3:23 pm
              Iwas waiting for BRV...unfortunately its Mobilio look has let me down,now back to Creta diesel auto...
              1. M
                Sep 21, 2016 at 7:00 am
                My more than three month's Driving Experience is very bad. Lot of Quality Issues:Model Name Honda BRV –S DieselVIN: MAKDG277EG4000100Engine No: N15A11701126Odometer till 19th Sept 2016: 5061 KMPurchased BRV on 21st May 2016 and lodge complain on 26th May 2016 about noise from co-driver side door and pillar side, Back side Tail gate door noise, back seat noise and Back side tail gate rear Mirror rubber strip sucks automatically. Visited Paras Honda more than 20 times from last three months but till date not satisfied and complains are not rectified from any one in Honda service centre.(1)Noise heard from co-driver side area while driving (2) Lock noise heard from left co- driver and centre row right door (3) Noise heard from Tool Kit area while driving (4) Rear Boot Door level difference from car body, not aligned, so unequal gap is visible on both left & right side and have noise (5) Steering Colom cover is not aligned (6) Noise heard as if rear number plate is loose (7) Steering Wheel Noisy above 120 KMP speed.(7) if you service your car from Paras Honda your cars mileage drop immediately why no answer.(8) Best part is that, they use double tape to reduce noise in car. After 04 – 05 days again noise increased. Company don’t have permanent solution for noise reduction.Paras Honda Jodhpur people only know how to sell accessories and create bills for extra things. They don’t know how to fix problems.Twice complain on Honda call centre but not satisfied. My suggestion is not to purchase HONDA BRV.Hope complain will reach to higher authorities for quality issues.
                1. S
                  Aug 16, 2016 at 12:30 pm
                  I do agree.Launching HRV against creta,duster will be right strategy.sub 20 lakhs HRV will not attract upper middle cl who can s 1/2 lakhs more to 10/12 lakhs sedan or compact SU for HRV But definitely not 18/20 lakhs. So right strategy would be to launch HRV in 12-15 lakhs.
                  1. Prashant Kumar
                    May 11, 2016 at 11:25 am
                    my yearly usage one lakh km ,i need durability like toyota innova , honda brv has good mileage claim , i strictly need 7 or8 seater diesel suv , if honda give me durabilty like innova/comfert like innova last bench seat and around 21 kml mileage i must by it.
                    1. A
                      Jun 21, 2016 at 11:12 pm
                      Launch Vezel you fools!!!
                      1. A
                        Jun 21, 2016 at 11:13 pm
                        Only fools will buy Mobilio Facelift called BR-V!!!
                        1. A
                          Jun 21, 2016 at 11:10 pm
                          Perfectly Written article Bro...Its not BR-V its Mobilio Facelift..I mean why the you need to launch a 7 seater when 5 seater Compact SUVs (Duster, Creta) are topping the market..utter non-sense, Lauch "Honda Vezel" Instead!!!
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