Honda Motor Company has bucked the industry trend to post growth of around 80 per cent in the Indian market. Honda CEO Takanobu Ito tells Sharmistha Mukherjee the company is bullish on growth prospects in spite of the sluggish market. Edited excerpts:
Honda has said globally it would look at doubling sales to six million units by 2016-17. What proportion of these volumes do you expect to come from emerging markets such as India?
In all emerging markets, there is a problem of currency fluctuation. But on the products front, two-wheelers are an essential commodity required in daily life. So, I think there is a robust market there. In four-wheelers, we have been selling the Amaze in India and the Brio and Mobilio in Asean markets. Our products are priced competitively and are doing well. We know that the market has degrown over the last few months. But it will pick up in due course as there is potential here. Honda’s target is to sell six million vehicles globally by March 2017. In India, we are looking at trebling sales to 300,000 units by that time. We are committed to the market here. Over the next few years, we want to bring models that are comfortable and usuable for Indian customers.
Are you exploring possibilities to introduce an entry-level compact car positioned below the Brio, possibly powered by a diesel engine, to grow volumes in India?
We do not have any specific plan at the moment. We have not made any final decision but we are exploring possibilities in the market.
You unveiled multi-purpose vehicle Mobilio on Wednesday based on the same platform as the Brio. Any plans for a compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) on the same?
Just like the compact sedan segment, the market for small SUVs is opening up. We are examining a lot of opportunities. Next financial year, we will launch Mobilio and all new Jazz. But we are very competitive and will aggressively launch products in the Indian markets.
Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) has stated its efforts to gain leadership position in the Indian two-wheeler market by the end of the decade. What is the investment that would go in towards putting in place commensurate capacity for building that kind of scale?
We have already started production on our fourth plant in India. We will commission it in the second half of 2015. We will think of further strategy after that. As regards to the passenger vehicle segment, we are going to start operations at our facility in Tapukara (Rajasthan) later this month. This would bring in additional capacity of 120,000 units. Further investments in four-wheelers will be based on market growth.