Hondas Own Creative Life Vehicle

Updated: May 18 2003, 05:30am hrs
The comforts of a sedan with the thrills of an SUV. You heard this when the Chevrolet Forester was launched, you heard it again when the Suzuki Grand Vitara XL-7 was launched. And now youre hearing it again, now that Honda Siel Cars India Ltd (HSCIL) is introducing one of the most talked about cars today, the Honda CR-V, which is Hondas own creative life vehicle.

The introduction of the CR-V, as H Yamada, president and CEO, HSCIL, informs us, is a part of a bigger strategy of the company to become the market leader in the premium car segment.

In the light of his statement, it is worthwhile to consider what this vehicle is actually offering. Explains automotive expert R K Dhawan, You get into the vehicle and youll find out. The CR-V is spacious like a sedan, but you dont have to climb into it the way you get into a SUV, he says.

Put plainly, the CR-V offers the comforts of a luxury car. This comfort is achieved via maximum economy of internal space. For instance, the parking brake has been mounted on the dashboard, thereby allowing aisle space between the driver and co-drivers seat.

An elevated seating position behind the steering wheels means a better view of the road. Plus, there are independently reclining front and rear seats, heat blocking green glass, automatic air-conditioner, folding picnic table, foldaway central table with cup holders, cargo-floor bucket for washing and wet storage, all of them adding to its convenience and comfort.

For the thrill lover, the heart of the CR-V is a two-litre DOHC, intelligent variable timing, electronically controlled (i-VTEC) engine. It delivers a power of 142bhp. But more than this, it is the real-time, four-wheel drive that is the talking point. It means the vehicle is continuously on four-wheel drive. Hondas dual-pump, real-time, four-wheel drive technology activates automatically when either of the front wheels loses grip on the driving surface. A change in oil pressure causes the multi-plate clutch to mesh and transmit torque to the rear wheels.

The generally perceived notion is that driving on four wheels consumes more fuel. We have technology that reduces fuel consumption even on four-wheel drives, says Mr Yamada, allaying this apprehension.

Gautam Sen, editor, Auto Motor And Sports, agrees with Mr Yamada. He says, Gone are the days when four-wheel drives were considered to be consuming lots of fuel. It is no longer so with the advancement of technology, he adds. Moreover, mileage is no longer an issue for the people at whom the CR-V is targetted.

We are setting our eyes on people who are looking out for uniqueness, says Mr Yamada. It is for those who want the power of a sports utility vehicle, but are at the same time looking for the comforts of a sedan, he adds.

The question now is how many such people there are, considering that so many manufacturers are introducing these vehicles. Could you imagine 10 years ago, when everybody was talking about the depletion of oil reserves in the world, that today we would be having so many cars in India asks Mr Dhawan. Likewise, he says, there will emerge buyers for these vehicles, he adds.

Elaborating further, Mr Yamada says, All over the world, the trend is shifting more towards these types of vehicle. People are looking not merely at the comfort of a sedan, but for utility as well. Indians are now more open and receptive to these trends, he adds. Therefore, we are hopeful that we will be able to sell this vehicle here in India well, says Mr Yamada. It is this optimism that makes HSCIL consider selling the CR-V as a primary vehicle.

Accordingly, the CR-V is to be priced at Rs 14-15 lakh, and will compete in the D-segment, even if it means cannibalisation with the Accord. Yes, we do expect some kind of cannibalisation between the two, says Mr Yamada. But we are targetting the lower end of the D-segment with the CR-V, competing with the likes of the Sonata, the Octavia, etc. He adds that the Accord will continue to focus on the upper end of the D-segment.

To be brought in a completely built-up unit, the CR-V will be available by the end of this July. It will come in six different colours: satin silver metallic, mojave mist metallic, nighthawk black pearl, zircon blue metallic, Chianti red pearl and taffeta white. Riding on the confidence of being competitively priced, Mr Yamada expects to sell about 300 units in the first three months of the CR-Vs launch. Overall, we are looking at about 1,000 to 1,200 units in the first year, he says, adding that if the response is good, they would sell this through the CKD route. Though this remains to be seen, one thing is for sure and that is that you will have more options from which to choose.