Japanese two-wheeler giant Honda has narrowed the gap with Bajaj Auto in the race for the second spot in the motorcycle segment, as it makes faster inroads into India’s hinterlands.
Helped by an uptick in rural demand, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) came close to beating Bajaj Auto last financial year in motorcycle sales. The Delhi-based company clocked 1.95 million units sales in FY18 as against 1.97 million units clocked by the Pune-based Bajaj Auto.
This was preceded by Honda beating Bajaj in seven out of 12 months last financial year in the motorcycle segment, as per data shared by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. The Japanese manufacturer kicked off the new financial year by beating Bajaj Auto yet again.
Hero Motocorp, however, remained the largest manufacturer of motorcycles.
Honda is the number two in the over two-wheeler segment, helped by its gear-less bestseller Activa.
Honda’s surge in motorycles coincides with a fall in Bajaj volumes as the latter grapples with lack of strong products in the burgeoning 125cc segment where Honda has significantly strengthened its position. In FY18, Honda clocked a growth of 27 percent while Bajaj reported a fall of 1.33 percent. The motorcycle segment reported a growth of 13.6 percent.
With models like Shine and Shine SP Honda has been the leader in the 125cc segment for several months. The 110-125cc segment grew by 16 percent last year and now makes up 17 percent of the motorcycle segment.
However, Bajaj is still the leader in the 125-150cc segment where is has a share of 46 percent. This segment though saw a fall of 13 percent last year. In the other premium segment of 150-200cc, TVS Motor Company retained the title of the biggest player with the Apache range of models. Bajaj sells the Pulsar and Avenger range in this segment.
In an email response to Moneycontrol, S Ravikumar, President – Business Development and Assurance, Bajaj Auto, said: “Refresh of the CT and Platina models worked well in the entry segment. The new Discovers added further impetus. Substantial upgrades to Cruise and Street versions restored traction to Avenger brand. Pulsar twin disc version has been received very well. Dominar is steadily improving. To address the 125cc segment, we are developing an all new portfolio of products for the near future.”
Motorcycles rev up
The motorcycle segment posted a strong performance last year after coming under pressure from gearless scooters, which had made faster-than-expected inroads into the buyer’s list. Motorcycles makes up 62 percent of the overall two wheeler market while scooters makes up 33 percent.
The growth can be attributed to a revival of rural demand helped by easy loan schemes and product discounts. On an average, sales in the rural areas are responsible for generating nearly 50 percent of motorcycle volumes.
Looking at the lion’s share of the motorcycle segment in the overall two-wheeler industry Bajaj decided to keep its focus on the bike segment while refraining from reentering the scooter segment.
To further increase its reach in the Indian market, Honda will add another 400 touch points this year taking the total to more than 6000 from the current 5700. About 70 percent of HMSI’s last year’s touch point expansion of 400 came from the rural market and a similar ratio is expected this year.