Honda Cars India has emerged as the country’s fourth-largest auto firm by volumes with a bouquet of offerings in almost all segments and price points. The company recently relaunched its premium hatchback Jazz which is expected to compete with Maruti’s Swift and Hyundai’s i20 Elite. The car which was first launched in the domestic market way back in 2008 failed to take off because of its pricing which was seen high by the consumers. However, this time round the car has been competitively priced because of higher level of localisation. The company has a market share of 7-8% and sold around 1,90,000 units in FY15, up 41% over last year. Katsushi Inoue, president, Honda Cars India, tells FE’s Malyaban Ghosh that the company is planning to expand its dealership network to 300 in 200 cities by March 2016 and would stick to its policy of vehicle recall in order to remain true to its customers. Excerpts:
How different is the third-generation Jazz from its previous version?
The most significant difference is the increase in levels of localisation of components. We have increased the localisation levels of the new Jazz to 95% compared to 72% for the last version. The increased localisation also enabled us to price the product competitively. The fuel efficiency has improved and it has been developed keeping in mind the demand of the Indian customers.
What is your expectation from the premium hatchback segment as both Maruti and Hyundai have strong products here.
This segment is completely new to us. In order to deal with the volumes, we have expanded our manufacturing capacity to 300,000 units per anum at an investment of R300 crore. Currently, we do not have a sales projection but after seeing the customer excitement and expectations from the Jazz, I am very hopeful.
Are there any plans for expansion of dealerships in the current year?
We plan to expand our dealer network to 300 dealerships in 200 cities by March 2016.
How do plan to penetrate the Indian automobile market with the new offering?
We are targeting the young customers who are between 20 to 40 years through the social media platforms. We also have television commercial to inform the potential customers. The reputation of the brand Honda in the Indian market will also help us attracting volumes in the domestic market.
Is there any plan to export the Jazz from India?
We export the current version of Jazz to South Africabut the volumes are pretty limited. Since February, we have exported approximately 1,700 units of the third-generation Jazz. With this new model, we will try to explore other geographies as well. But, at present, our focus is on the domestic market. We are focussing on exporting components to the Arab countries. We are going for Make in India.
Recall of cars by manufacturers have increased manifold in the last five years? What do you think of this development?
Honda has a definite policy when it comes to recall of our products. We value the loyalty of our customers above anything else and we will stick to that. In a way, we have no problem with recall system. In the recent times, we have seen an increase in volumes and along with that the improvement in technology, the components including so many other things have become so complicated. But Honda is going to take care of that for sure. We are going to remain true to our customers.