Honda Motor Co. which has so far stuck to mass market commuters and a few performance motorcycles in the Indian market, now has its eyes set on the middleweight motorcycle segment in here. Honda is said to have formed a team of engineers to develop a motorcycle in India, to compete with Royal Enfield.
Noriaki Abe, president and CEO of Asian Honda Motor Co. Ltd has revealed in an interview that Honda will be developing a global middleweight motorcycle directly targeted at Royal Enfield. Abe, who currently heads Honda motorcycles in Asia, will take over as the CEO of Honda's global motorcycle business from April 1, 2017.
"We have already allocated the people, some from Thailand and some from Japan to India to make a new mid-sized motorcycle in India," said Abe at the interview before indicating that the planned middleweight motorcycle will compete with those from the Royal Enfield stable. He further went on to say, "If we can make that product, we can export that to even Japan."
Image of the Honda Rebel 300 used for representational purpose
Royal Enfield has a cult status in the Indian market and attempts by other manufacturers to dethrone them in the 300-500cc segment have not been very successful. Mahindra had tried with the Mojo and more recently Bajaj has tried with the Dominar, to eat into the sales of the Chennai-based motorcycle manufacturer. However, as explained in our Bajaj Dominar vs Mojo comparison, the Royal Enfield market, though very accessible, is very hard to dominate.
Honda already has two products in the 300-500cc power cruiser segment - the Rebel 300 and Rebel 500 motorcycles, sold in the US market. But their decision to develop a new global product from scratch, in the same segment, shows how determined they are to compete with Royal Enfield
Royal Enfield on the other hand seems to have set its sight on international markets. With 13,819 motorcycles sold overseas and 5.92 lakh units sold in India in this financial year (2016-17), it seems that their cult following is only increasing. The company's latest offering, the Himalayan, has been embraced with open arms both here and in the global markets.
Will Honda be able to compete effectively with Royal Enfield? Only time can tell. Details of the new Honda motorcycle are unavailable right now, but watch this space for more updates.