The Japanese automaker Honda Motor Company Ltd. is one of the largest car manufacturers in the world. Aside from the ‘everyday’ car production, they are in the big leagues making their presence felt in robotics, AI and even in aerospace. So, now we let’s trace the history of Honda. Where have they failed and where did they triumph? We shall also sneak a peek into how Honda cars in India are going to be in the future.
Honda: The Origin
It was around 80 years ago when Soichiro Honda started it all. Honda Company of the present day had a somewhat humble beginning as an automobile parts manufacturer called Tokai Seiki. With the Great War that devastated Japan, hard times were in store for the company. But, Tokai Seiki, the predecessor of Honda Motors, still made it through the war. The people who made up the company gathered the debris and the collateral damage of the war and turned it into something short of the empire that we see today.
It only took a couple of years after World War II for Honda Motor Co. Ltd. to become a legitimate business structure. By 1964 the company became the largest motorbike maker in the world. It was only a year before in 1963, that Honda introduced the pick-up truck T360, with a straight-4 engine. This was the first automobile they produced. The T360 was soon followed by S500, which was the company’s first production car.
In the passenger car segment, Honda Civic and Accord gained huge popularity. For targeting the luxury car buyers, Honda introduced Acura. Over the years that followed Honda grew and soon they had facilities all around the world. Now Honda cars are coveted in around 150 countries.
Honda Cars India Ltd.
The brand came to India in 1995 and Honda Cars India Ltd. was soon set up. Their first manufacturing plant was in the UP at Greater Noida. They kicked off their stint in the country with Honda City in 1998. The company found great success with this sedan. The Honda City 1.5 EXI S of 1998 was based on Honda Civic and it competed with cars like Maruti Suzuki Esteem. Honda City is an iconic car even now and still have a devoted customer base.
In their early days, there wasn’t a lot of competition for this seasoned auto manufacturer in the country. Plus, they had carved out a separate market for themselves, away from the mainstream car buyers.
Honda won hearts and soon became more sought after by providing value-added services to their buyers. Their dealerships also sold spare parts and components making it easier for customers to maintain their cars. For all these reasons Honda initially had a good run in India. They soon expanded their manufacturing in the country by opening a second plant in Rajasthan.
Honda hit the jackpot when they decided to tap into the Indian market. In India, they enjoyed one of its biggest businesses in the world and a faithful assortment of patrons.
There are many reasons why the company got a great start in India. They have sedans that are worth their salt. With good ratings in crash tests, cars from Honda can be called safe. Another reason why people still love and buy their cars is because of the relatively good fuel economy. They also have a good second-hand market.
The proud offspring of the marque, Honda City is a cult favourite and is cherished by many. Even today the elegant sedan is a front runner in the Indian roads. Along with Honda City, other sedans like Civic and Accord also did great in the Indian market. So did the luxury SUV, CR-V.
But they did face a few setbacks when they began diversifying. When Honda entered the market occupied by homegrown brands like Maruti Suzuki, Honda’s Jazz could not compete with cars like the Swift.
Before they subscribed to the mainstream market, Honda had a reputation as a premium carmaker. But when they started targeting the Indian middle class, the brand name suffered a sort of identity crisis. Besides, product recalls around the time did not help the company’s image either.
However, Honda’s Amaze was received with quite a bit of fanfare. This car was popular for a lot of reasons. For a sedan, this car was cost-effective, safe, expansive and reliable. It also offers advanced Diesel Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT). For all these reasons Amaze is one of the best family cars in the country. A huge number of sales earned by Honda can be credited to Amaze.
Honda has been doing great at the technology front. The manufacturer has around 10 models in the country now. Honda is doing well in the country even if it only enjoys less than 5% of the market share in the passenger vehicle segment.
In 2015 Honda witnessed a slow down in sales, along with some other car manufacturers. But what hit the company hard was Covid-19. In 2020 they had to shut down their facility in Great Noida, their former headquarters. Now they shifted their plant to Rajasthan for better capacity utilization. Along with this, they had to discontinue their just relaunched Civic and CR-V.
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There is no denying that Honda does need to put more effort into creating the perfect car for the Indian market. Honda should spend more on market research in order to give the Indian buyer what they want. They should try to make it big in the hatchback segment. This is because in order to top the sales chart in the country a car manufacturer should make gains in the small car segment first.
Honda’s Plans for India
In the near future, the company plans on embarking their journey to bring electric cars in India. Offering upgraded technology in their new models are on their minds as well. That is the right move from their part, we would say. Since electric cars are the future after all.
Now Honda’s Indian subsidiary is more or less estranged from its Japanese parent organization, Honda Motor Company. But Honda is still committed to India, its fourth-largest market in the world.
This year and in the years to come, they are planning to roll out newer and better models. Honda Amaze Facelift will hit the market at an expected base price of 6.3 lakh, sometime later in the year. They’ve also got Honda ZR-V, the much-awaited SUV launching in 2021. This sub-compact SUV would have to compete with Hyundai’s Creta and Kona, Kia Seltos and others in the segment.
Hoping to make it big
Car sales have increased in the post lockdown times. Honda too is going to benefit from this. Last year ended on a positive note for the company. They sold 8,638 cars the December of 2020. This was 226 units more than December 2019. The company is optimistic about its prospects in 2021.
It is set to open up another manufacturing plant in the country in Gujarat. By producing quality cars that are reliable with good driving dynamics there is no doubt that India will remain in love with Honda cars. They are hopeful. And so are we!