Mo­bilio out, WR-V in: Will Brand Honda bounce back

Customer Click - - AUTO ANALYSIS - Manoj@glo­cal­in­fo­

Despite be­ing a stal­wart brand among pas­sen­ger cards, Honda has been los­ing mar­ket share in In­dia over the last cou­ple of years. It has some well-es­tab­lished prod­ucts - City and Amaze – that have been sell­ing at a steady pace. But com­pe­ti­tion from like Maruti, Hyundai and oth­ers is get­ting in­tense, model by model. Honda’s re­cent prod­ucts - Mo­bilio and BR-V have reg­is­tered weak sales, and in fact Mo­bilio has been phased out, less than 3 years after launch. This must be one of the short­est prod­uct lives in the his­tory of In­dian pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles.

In In­dia, the 5 tra­di­tional shapes of ve­hi­cles have large sale vol­umes hatch­backs, sedans, com­pact sedans, SUVS and com­pact SUVS. Other shapes such as crossovers, MUVS and sta­tion wag­ons, have lesser cus­tomer ap­peal, the ex­cep­tion be­ing the Toy­ota In­nova, which has been sell­ing like hot cakes since its launch. The weak­ness of the Mo­bilio and the BR-V could partly be ex­plained from this trend. Now with Mo­bilio be­ing phased out, Honda has ex­ited the MUV cat­e­gory. Its WR-V is some­where be­tween a cross­over and a SUV? Will its luck turn around this time? It all de­pends on how cus­tomers re­act to the po­si­tion­ing of the WR-V!

Hav­ing a pres­ence in the tra­di­tional shapes is a good busi­ness move. A good ex­am­ple is VW, which did not have a pres­ence in the com­pact sedan space. VW did not have any ap­pro­pri­ate ve­hi­cle in its global port­fo­lio... so it cre­ated one for In­dia - the Ameo. VW is now sell­ing around 2500 units of the Ameo - not a big num­ber by in­dus­try stan­dards, but a de­cent num­ber by VW stan­dards.

Honda now has of­fer­ings in 3 of the 5 pop­u­lar shape based cat­e­gories - it is still miss­ing of­fer­ings in the SUV and com­pact SUV space, the lat­ter be­ing the hottest cat­e­gory since the en­try of the Ford Ecosport. Hope­fully we will see a proper SUV and com­pact SUV from Honda in the years ahead.

There are two well-known char­ac­ter­is­tics of Honda. The first is that it comes out with dis­tinc­tive prod­ucts. Ev­ery avatar of the City stands out for its sleek­ness and power, Jazz is supremely spa­cious and the Civic is sporty. No Honda prod­uct stands as ‘Jack of all and mas­ter of none.’ Honda is also known to be slow and de­ci­sive in com­ing out with new prod­ucts. It is not a pi­o­neer in any prod­uct cat­e­gory, and that weak­ness has caused it to for­feit mar­ket share to its nim­ble com­peti­tors pri­mar­ily Maruti and Hyundai.

One thing that Honda is well known for is sporty ex­cit­ing shapes. How­ever, its last two launches - Mo­bilio and BR-V - were more util­i­tar­ian rather than sporty. In the process, Honda’s sales took a beat­ing, and per­haps its im­age. Honda has rightly gone back to its roots to come up with the sleek yet ag­gres­sive look­ing WR-V. It is ex­cit­ing, no sec­ond thoughts about it, and re­flects the Honda de­sign DNA.

Honda WR-V now faces direct chal­lenges from stal­warts like the Vi­tara Brezza and Ecosport, and from the muchan­tic­i­pated Tata Nexon.

The WR-V will sell in good num­bers .... there is lit­tle doubt about it. The ques­tion is: will it set the charts on fire? We will know the an­swer in a cou­ple of months when the cus­tomers vote with their wal­lets.

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