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Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) is the scooter market leader and the Number 2 Original Equipment Manufacturer in the country. HMSI is all set to overhaul its entire scooter line up in order to be BS-VI compliant. They are also working on a new, BS-VI compliant Honda Activa model.
Honda says all its major investments, bot CapEx and from an human resources perspective, are being done to significantly overhaul a big portion of its existing scooter portfolio. Th approach they are adopting is different from the rest of the industry.
Most two wheeler manufacturers are incorporating electronic fuel injection, three-way catalytic converters, O2 sensors, electronic control units, and on-board diagnostic modules in their four-stroke scooters and motorcycles. HMSI however, is taking a larger step, and making bigger changes to its portfolio.
During an exclusive talk with AutoCar Professional, Yadvinder Singh Guleria, Senior Vice President & Operating Head, Sales & Marketing, HMSI, said, "Currently, all our focus is on BS VI because it not only requires a technological change in our line-up, but the models will be built on entirely new platforms too. Yes, there will be change in engines but along with that there will also be changes in terms of frame and chassis for the majority of our current line-up. This is what we have decided, which may not be true for the entire industry. BS VI is going to be a very big change for us."
Without specifics about investment figures, Mr Guleria added, "There is also the necessary tooling and equipment which is also being upgraded at our plants in order to prepare for the transition from BS IV to BS VI. This is the short-term investment for us. For the long-term, we will keep on studying about when to invest, in terms of initial capacity generation and all such parameters. Those plans are still on and we will announce at an appropriate stage once we move further into Q1 and towards Q2 of FY2020."
While HMSI has not finalized a deadline to switch over to BS-VI production, Mr Guleria feels that the time line will vary from manufacture to manufacture. He also feels that every one will have their own strategy because of the different product on offer.
He said, "We believe that at least one quarter is required by everyone for carrying out this changeover. While we cannot disclose when we are going to launch our first BS VI model, suffice it to say the transition will be done over a period of time and the shift will happen in a step-wise manner."
Mr Guleria also feels that the infrastructure needed at various service stations, and the training needed to enable an understanding of EFI and different technology in terms of maintenance and after sales will be another influencing factor for different timelines. "We need to train manpower and install the new servicing equipment at the dealerships, which is also going to take its own sweet time. We do have our plan in place for carrying that out," he added.
While Honda is expecting a lot of pre-buying during the fourth quarter of the current financial year, he feels that a balance has to be maintained for how much BS-VI volumes one wants to carry forward. He says there will be hedging involved and the shift will have to be carefully planned and executed. The shift will need strategy in place otherwise all that is extra after 31 March 2020 is just dead stock.
When asked if the Honda Activa was feeling any heat from competitors that offer better scooters for a lower price, Mr Guleria said, "One thing which is still not at par with Honda is trust because customers very clearly know that the Activa, even today, offers the highest resale value. Even after declining 4 percent, it still emerged at the top of the Indian two-wheeler market at a time when more 100cc scooters were selling than ever before. Having said that, we do recognize that there are changing dynamics and new evolving customer needs. Since our customers have stood by us for so long, now it is time for us to give them back - I would say, just wait for the next Activa!"
Without talking about a timeline for a launch, Honda said that people can maintain high expectations from the new Honda Activa and that the company was monitoring and keeping up with the latest trends. Honda says this includes connectivity.
Mr Guleria said, "Connectivity is one of the things (on the new Activa). Similarly, there are many other new features that the customer might not be aware of and could come as a surprise. I would like to tell them, 'Please wait for those surprises!'"
Thoughts About Honda Motorcycle And Scooter India Getting BS-VI Compliant
Kudos to HMSI. They're doing everything they can do to give the best possible products to customers. Considering they hold 26 per cent of the scooter segment, expectations are high and it looks like Honda will deliver!