Honda chalks out fervent plans for 2013, early 2014

New small diesel to power next gen City, Brio saloon and mini-SUV, all of them hitting India from late 2013 says Adil Jal Darukhanawala

Honda Brio hatchback

Better late than never goes one maxim but if ever someone needs to see out adversity then yet another maxim gets into play: when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Both these seem to fit on Honda very well as the Japanese car and bike giant has announced that it is going to go all out with a slew of measures to regain not just lost ground but also to spearhead growth in an area it never was present in! That in a nutshell was the message coming from none other than its CEO Takenobu Ito as he set about unveiling his company’s mission statement for the next decade.

The immediate plan is to double sales globally from 3 million units to 6 million units within the next five years and at the cornerstone of this effort would be a renewed as well as a completely new focus on small and compact cars, both for the developed markets like the US, Europe and Japan plus also for emerging markets like India and China. In fact, Ito tellingly mentioned how the global auto industry could be shaping up from a market perspective with the developed and developing markets accounting for almost a 50:50 per cent market share!

Honda Freed MPV

Honda’s cars like the Jazz, the Asia-markets only City and the new Brio super smally for the emerging markets would be at the crux of it all though not necessarily in the same makeup one sees them today. There will be further product innovation so as to have that distinctive Honda flair on the technological, design and fun-to-drive fronts and expect to see more spin offs from established platforms and architectures.

There will be a Brio-based small saloon while the next generation City would be an all new car from the ground up when it hits the roads in the second quarter of 2013. If that’s not it, the new City would also underpin a seven-seater MPV a’la the Suzuki Ertiga but with that typical Honda essence to distinguish it from every perspective. In fact, Honda already has a very competent MPV based on the present City platform which is made and sold in Japan badged as the Freed. It is not as if Honda would need to re-invent the wheel but it would have to do so keeping price sensibilities in mind without losing its raison d’etre. If that is not all, expect a mini-SUV as well on the City platform and from there on there could be even more spin offs, maybe even an affordable two-seater sports car, what say?

New Honda Civic

The biggest news though is the fact that India will be a major focus area and towards that end, realisation has dawned that diesel as motive power has to be inducted into the product portfolio. A slew of diesels are already on the test benches in Japan and it is expected that derivatives of the 1.6-litre i-DTEC unit which will debut in the European Civic early this month would be made for India in various displacement sizes. The City would surely get both diesel and petrol engine options while the Brio and its notchback saloon offering could also be factored in with small 1.2 to 1.4-litre displacement oil burners.

While the next generation City is expected to debut in 2013, the diesel engined version would go on sale in the country in early 2014. What is the underlying theme in all this is the fact that the next generation City as well as its Jazz hatchback derivative plus the mini-SUV and MPV would all be designed to accept diesel engines thereby displaying that typical attention to detail which Honda is acclaimed for. Ito also said that India was going to be the lead development market for the small diesel engine which would draw upon local ancillary component makers from the very outset of development so that local production costs are in place from the word go.

On the global front, Ito signalled a return back to performance along with strengthening all its existing product offerings. An all-new sports car would debut soon in 2013, first going on sale in Japan before moving to other markets in early 2014. Ito outlined the fact that development would be divided into six regions worldwide and all of them would work concurrently so that not only is development time cut down but also the fact that costs are reined in and the back end operations synchronised to get better economies of scale.

Honda FCX Clarity

Among all this conventional automotive thought Honda hasn’t taken its eye off the fuel cell ball. Using the lessons learnt with the FCX Clarity fuel cell electric vehicle, Honda intends to put into limited production and sale an all new fuel cell electric car in 2015 in Japan, the US and Europe.

On the motorcycle business, Ito was clear that there would be no slackening the pace of development, be it for the commuter segment or the performance driven superbike class. While HMSI has already set into motion its bid to go after leadership of the Indian motorcycle market after parting ways its long standing partner, the Hero Group, expect many more new models every year from its wholly owned Indian subsidiary.

For enthusiasts the world over, Ito’s statement about an all new super sports bike incorporating technologies and lessons learnt from the company’s involvement in MotoGP has begun development pending an introduction in mid-2013. If that is not all, there will also be a series of innovative mid-size machines for pleasure and commuting.

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