Honda Cars India Ltd may have been the last in line to offer the diesel option to the Indian consumers, but the company is confident that it can make up for the lost time. In an interview with Mihir Mishra and Anil Sasi, Honda Cars’ Sr Vice President–Marketing & Sales, Jnaneswar Sen was categorical in his assertion that when it comes to India, it is never too late. Excerpts.
You have launched the diesel versions of your car at a time when the demand for diesel cars is declining. Do you think an earlier entry into the diesel segment would have given you more volumes?
It’s never too late for India, at least in my lifetime. In fact, we are the last (to come up with a diesel), but that was because our research and development (R&D) guys worked to offer a new product in the diesel segment.
That is now yielding fruit and our diesel cars have the best power and mileage among competitors.
Of the total bookings we have received for the new City, around 70 per cent is for the diesel version. The Amaze, when it was launched in April last year, got 82 per cent booking for diesel and it’s 60 per cent even now.
Will some amount of clarity from the government on the diesel pricing front help?
Yes, It certainly will.
The diesel demand is shrinking because of a lack of clarity. They are increasing diesel prices every month but there is no clarity on where it is headed.
Assuming that the gap between diesel and petrol price narrows down substantially, customers will then buy cars according to their needs and we are now offering a choice of both to the consumers.
You’re planning to launch the new-generation Jazz in the next fiscal. The last time around, Honda failed to get big numbers, with pricing being an issue. Will you be doing a course correction in terms of price?
Frankly, the market in India was not ready for Jazz when we launched it. The car was ahead of its times.
Our R&D is consistently working on reducing prices through localisation and we have achieved 90 per cent localisation in the new City. Our top priority over the past four years has been localisation and it is bearing results now.
India is a primarily a small car market. Does Honda have any car in its product portfolio that could drive