Civic is such a strong brand, Honda has to target the top spot in premium sedan segment: Honda senior VP

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Published: February 25, 2019 2:23:30 AM

With the Civic, the company has completed its sedan line-up in India

Rajesh Goel, senior vice-president & director, Sales & Marketing, Honda Cars India.

As far as premium sedan segment is concerned, Honda Cars India is in an uncanny situation. When dieselisation was happening a few years ago, Honda didn’t have a diesel engine for the Civic, and had to discontinue the model in 2013. Now that the segment has shifted to petrol (80% cars sold in this segment are petrol), Honda is introducing a diesel variant (along with petrol). Nevertheless, the company hopes the Civic will outsell its competitors. “With this kind of styling and such a strong brand (the Civic), it’s natural for us to target the leadership position,” says Rajesh Goel, senior vice-president & director, Sales & Marketing, Honda Cars India. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that, with the Civic, the company has completed its sedan line-up in India. Excerpts:

What makes you so optimistic about the success of the Civic?
The Civic has been a much loved brand in India. Since the time it was discontinued (in 2013), there has been an anticipation of it coming back. The Civic had significantly expanded its segment when we sold it in India, and would have continued to do so had dieselisation not taken away a large chunk of sales (that time the Civic was available only in petrol). The size of the premium sedan segment (Toyota Corolla Altis, Skoda Octavia and Hyundai Elantra) is about 10,000 units per year, and I believe with the Civic the segment will definitely expand—because the people who want to upgrade from, say, Honda City, but don’t want to buy an SUV, now have an option. There are prospective buyers who are waiting for the new Civic—we have comments on social media, direct contact with customers, we have mails from people asking us when we are launching it.
Also, because the new Civic has a unique sex appeal, it can be an appropriate second car for a much richer audience who generally drive, say, a Mercedes-Benz or a BMW.

Does buying the Civic make sense when a fully-loaded variant of a midsize sedan (like the City) might offer almost similar luxury features at perhaps a lower price?
Customers, almost always, upgrade from one segment to the one higher. And an upgrade doesn’t happen primarily on features; cars are an emotional purchase, and it’s the design that first appeals to a prospective buyer, then comes the brand, and later other rational reasons. In the Civic, both the design and the brand are very strong.

Localisation level in the Civic is just 30%. How will you manage to price it competitively?
Localisation currently is low because the sales volume in this segment is low. If sales grow at a point, we will localise more. As far as price is concerned, other cars in this segment are priced in the Rs 18-24 lakh range, so we have no option but to price the Civic in that range.

Earlier, the Civic was also available as a hybrid. Are you considering the same again?
The models we sell in India are available as a hybrid option in one market or the other. So, making a Honda India car hybrid is not a difficult proposition. Civic hybrid is also possible, but not for now.

Is Honda targeting a leadership
position in the premium sedan segment in India?
With this kind of styling, such a strong brand and such a fine product, it’s natural for us to target the leadership position.

What’s the future of the Brio in India?
We have stopped production of the existing Brio, and do not intend to bring the second generation to India, as of now. Given that the dynamics of the Indian market have changed (people are preferring sedans), and that the Amaze entry-level sedan is doing well, our entry-level model will be the Amaze. In fact, 30% people who are buying the Amaze are first-time buyers.

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