Honda City is probably one of the very few big car nameplate that is still in production and the journey for Honda Cars India started almost 20 years back with the introduction of first-generation Honda City in 1998. As a brand City is to Honda what Santo is to Hyundai or 800 is to Maruti but in a very different way. It helped the company to build the brand it is. kW in India and ever since it's inception the sedan was an aspirational product especially for the Indian middle-class. The first car was powerful and spacious and immediately connected with the Indian audience. In the last 20 years, Honda has rolled out 4 new generations of its City with each having influenced the Indian auto-industry and Indian buyers.
Time and again Honda has proven how important the Indian market is to the Japanese auto-maker. India accounts over 25% of Honda City’s global sales and the company has sold over 7 lakh (and counting) City’s in India in the last 20 years. Globally the car is sold in about 60 countries with 3.6 million units sold. The first generation Honda City was sold in India with two petrol engine options 1.3L and 1.5L and in 2000 the car received the VTEC engine. The first generation Honda City had the lifespan of about five years from 1998-2003 before Honda decided to give the car a completely new design, with more space, comfort and decent mileage the second generation Honda City sold over 1.77 lakh units and also saw the introduction of a CVT variant making its the first ever car in India to get a CVT transmission.
A decade before government mandating safety features like airbags/ABS saw Honda Cars started to offer ABS and Airbags as a standard offering on all the Honda City variants. This was a big deal as globally the world was going through an economic crisis and despite a slowdown in sales between 2008-2011, Honda City sales grew by x% over the sale of second-generation cars.
On the sales and networking side, Honda Cars in India started with 12 dealers in 11 cities in 1998 and now has a reach of about 349 outlets in 234 cities. Honda also had about 57 suppliers when it inaugurated its plant in Greater Noida and now has 221 suppliers. The company has constantly thrived to increase its reach in tier-2 and tier-3 cities and in the last 20 years with no presence in the Tier-3 market, Honda now has about 19% of its sales coming in from smaller Indian towns and villages. Metro and tier-1 cities still have about 53% sales of Honda coming in for the company.
The fourth generation Honda City launched in 2014 was the first to get a diesel engine with the launch of the 1.5L i-DTEC engine. By far the 2014 Honda City which also got a mid-life facelift in January 2017 is the best selling Honda City despite a tough fight given by the competition. Many might say Honda City has lost its ground to Maruti Suzuki Ciaz and Hyundai Verna but Honda is known to have the loyal customer base. Honda City carries a legacy and with a new generation Honda City coming out in every five years we have our reasons to believe that the fifth generation Honda City will debut in India in 2019.
It has been a successful ride for Honda Cars in India and Honda City has played a crucial role for the company to make an impact. Over the years the company has ventured into many segments. There are cars we miss dearly (Honda Civic) and there are SUVs (Honda HR-V) we wish to drive on India roads soon. As Honda looks ahead for its Next 20 years we hope the company to be more aggressive and also stay ahead in fast-changing Indian automobile industry.