New Delhi :
India’s fourth largest carmaker Honda India, which has been trailing behind competitors like Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai in the premium sedan segment, hopes to get back to the premium tag with the new Honda City, that has been its only warhorse since the first launch in January 1998.
The company has a reason to be optimistic as the fourth-generation City, launched only last week, has already notched up over 5,500 bookings as of Friday.
This assumes importance as after being the segment leader from launch since the past few months, the lower priced Ciaz from Maruti Suzuki has overtaken the City to become the segment leader with a slender margin.
“We are so overwhelmed by the response to our new City. We have already received more than 5,500 bookings for\ the new City. And with this we hope to regain the market leader in the segment as well as to regain our premium player tag,” Honda Cars India president and chief executive Yoichiro Ueno told a select group of reporters over the weekend.
“We don’t want to be known as a cheap or mass brand. We want our brand to be known as a premium car brand. Our focus will be the upper segment going forward,” he said.
“We’ve decided to maintain our traditional positioning, which is a bit more premium though not luxury. So, we’d like to target customers a bit different from others in terms of products, service, and customer experience,” he said.
Ueno also hinted at the premium Civic making a comeback as it looks for a more aggressive play in the premium-end and staying away from mass-market segmentdominated by Maruti and Hyundai.
Notably, Honda has reported negative numbers for the last 15 months in a row. The company will also drive in a new compact sports vehicle WR-V, based on the Jazz platform, Ueno said.
The petrol-only Civic was one of the most-recognisable models for the company, but was moved out from here around 2012 when the market had shifted to diesel.
On the hybrid Accord, he said they are selling around 30 units a year.
He also admitted that the Tokyo management is open to the idea of shipping in its global luxury brand Acura but refused to share details.
Ueno disputed claim that Ciaz is the segment leader, saying, “That company has gained from using regulations to its\ advantage.
The petrol City sells several times more than Ciaz petrol version, while that company is selling more diesel models because of the subsidies, Excise duty benefits as wellas the incentives arising from the FAME scheme, while we get none of them. So they can play the price game as well.”