Honda Cars India has finally unveiled the Elevate to compete in the compact or, as the company prefers to term it, ‘mid-size’ SUV space.
Munetsugu Kaneko, Large Project Leader, Honda Elevate Honda R&D Asia Pacific Co, told Mobility Outlook that the Indian arm was stepping into a new journey. Takuya Tsumura, President and CEO, Honda Cars India, added that the Elevate has put the company into the ‘boosting mode’.
All this has followed a challenging process of restructuring with one plant shut down and Honda focusing on a sole felicity in Rajasthan. When the BS6 Stage 2 norms kicked in, the company reduced its portfolio to just the Amaze and City.
Now with the Elevate, Kunal Behl, Vice President, Marketing and Sales, HCIL, said Honda would now provide the customers with ‘born-out-of-India’ products like the Amaze while also selling global brands like the City which has been tailored to fit the needs of customers here. India is the biggest market for the City which has been around for 25 years now.
For the Elevate, R&D teams from Japan and Thailand collaborated with their counterparts here for its development. India is the first market to get the SUV, said Toshio Kuwahara, Head of Regional Unit- Asia and Oceania, Honda Motor Company and President and CEO, Asian Honda Company. The SUV has kicked off with 90% localisation levels.
According to Behl, market research showed four key expectations from a ‘Honda SUV’. Customers wanted a bold and premium exterior look with the premium effect felt in the interiors too along with comfort and the latest technology. With India's tough road conditions, they preferred high levels of manoeuvrability with top-class driving dynamics with safety being paramount.
India For The World
Kaneko said India had some unique traits which would help Honda develop products for global needs. The environment and wide variety of customer trends and parameters contributed to production of well engineered and appealing products for the world.
According to him, India drives automotive trends and if the Elevate did well here and met customer needs, it would be a hit in other parts of the world too.
Exports from India have been increasing and Tsumura said 20% of the 116,247 units produced in FY23 were shipped out. The Elevate will power the export story even further. Incidentally, Honda’s annual production capacity in India is 1.8 lakh units and can increase to two lakh units.
From the global parent’s point of view, India remains important and, as Kuwahara said, of the 28 million products sold in FY23 under the Honda brand (including motorcycles), 4.3 million units were sold in India. The domestic market for Honda Cars has also seen sales increase by almost 7% to 91,418 units in FY23, compared to FY22’s 85,609 units.
Behl said Amaze remained the top seller with almost 40% of its customer base being first time buyers. With the Elevate, the carmaker has found its third volume pillar. “The City segment is 10,000 cars while the Amaze is about 34,000 cars. The midsize SUV segment is about 70,000 and we would like to have a sizable number,” he added.
Nearly 40% of the company’s sales come from Tier 1 regions while tier 2/3 take up the balance with 30% each. “We expect a similar trend for the Elevate as well,” Behl said.
Honda plans to bring out four more SUVs by 2030 for the Indian market including a BEV based on the Elevate. The company remains bullish on sedans too.
Honda Motor Company recently put out its electrification roadmap wherein it stated its intent to increase the ratio of electric and fuel cell electric vehicles to 100% globally by 2040. By the end of this decade, Honda is targeting production of over two million EVs annually. By 2030, it aims to have 40% sales coming from electrified vehicles, going up to 80% by 2035.
Kaneko said India was a key part of this vision plan which puts in context the development of the BEV based on the Elevate. The City e:HEV constitutes to about 15% of total (City) sales and will move to electric by the end of the decade.
“Depending upon the multiple unknown factors in terms of the power infrastructure, technology — we’re talking about FCVs and other future fuels — there are so many uncertainties but the direction is in place,” Kaneko concluded.