Honda Cars India, which currently doesn’t have a sport utility vehicle (SUV) in its product portfolio, is developing a brand-new SUV specifically for the Indian market, the top management of the company told FE. “We confirm that we are developing a new SUV for the Indian market; it’s an all-new product and is being developed specifically for India,” Gaku Nakanishi, president & CEO, Honda Cars India, told FE. “As far as its pricing, features and size are concerned, it’s a little too early to share.” Auto analysts FE talked to said that, in all probability, this forthcoming SUV will be in the midsize space (currently dominated by Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos), and not in the sub-4 metre SUV space, where Honda already has the WR-V, a crossover car. A crossover car is a raised hatchback that is, at times, projected in the market as an SUV-like vehicle.
Gaurav Vangaal, associate director, IHS Markit, told FE that the midsize SUV space is being keenly watched by those carmakers that don’t have a product currently. “This year Volkswagen (Tiguan), Skoda (Kushaq) and Mahindra (five-seater XUV700) have entered this area. This space is growing and is a promising area for any carmaker,” he said. The overall SUV segment has been growing at a fast pace. According to industry sources, while in CY15 SUVs contributed 13.5% to passenger vehicle sales, in CY19 this rose to 25.6%, 29% in CY20, and about 35% in H1CY21. On Wednesday, Honda Cars India launched the new Amaze sub-4 metre sedan priced `6.32 lakh onwards. First launched in 2013, Honda said over 4.5 lakh units of the Amaze have been sold and it is currently the carmaker’s largest-selling model in the country.
While the sub-4 metre sedan segment is shrinking — from the peak of 4,56,551 units sold in CY15, sub-4 metre sedan sales halved to just 2,13,874 units in CY20 — Nakanishi said that with new launches like the Amaze, it will once again attract car buyers. The other sub-4 metre sedans currently available are Maruti Suzuki Dzire, Hyundai Aura, Ford Aspire and Tata Tigor. As far as future product development is concerned, Honda is focusing on a technology-agnostic approach, which includes petrol, diesel and even hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). HEVs are powered by a petrol engine as well as an electric motor, and so these don’t need charging infrastructure, unlike battery-electric vehicles (BEVs).
According to a November 2019 study by ICAT (the automotive research body under the ministry of heavy industries) and BCG, HEVs can run 40% of the distance and 60% of the time as a BEV with the petrol engine shut off, and this gives HEVs 35-50% better fuel efficiency as compared to petrol/diesel vehicles. “Next year we will also launch an HEV in India,” Nakanishi said. “An HEV is easier to launch (as compared to a BEV) from an infrastructure point of view. Customers won’t have range anxiety as HEVs don’t need charging infrastructure.”
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