The importance of scooters
The Indian two-wheeler industry's report card for June, as it was for all the other segments, was a bad one. Overall sales at 16,49,477 units were down 11.69 percent compared to year-ago sales, and scooters were down 14.81 percent at 5,12,628 units.
But decline notwithstanding, what's important is that the contribution of scooters to the overall two-wheeler market has not dropped hugely. In July 2018, scooters contributed 32 percent to the overall two-wheeler industry sales of 18,67,884 units. In July 2019, despite a lower industry total, their contribution is 31 percent.
Honda and its Activa are to the scooter market what Maruti is to the passenger vehicle segment: a mover and shaker. While the Activa remains the unassailable scooter-market leader with the massive 1,80,485-unit lead over the far-paced second player, its slowing sales are an opportunity for new and niftier rivals to make gains. And that's underway in the domestic market. Let's take a closer look.
Compared to May 2019, when the Honda Activa sold 2,18,734 units, its performance in June is better with 2,36,739 units, albeit considerably below year-ago sales of 2,92,294 units. This is the best yet in Q1 FY2020, considering Honda dispatched 2,10,961 units in April 2019.
In end-May, the company launched the Activa 5G Limited Edition, with prices starting at Rs 55,032 (for the Activa 5G Limited Edition STD) and going up to Rs 56,897 for the Activa 5G Limited Edition DLX).
The Japanese major is readying for the BS6 era and it recently unveiled its first BS6-compliant product; unsurprisingly, it's an Activa.
The TVS Jupiter remains the firm No. 2 on this list and sold 56,254 units in June, similar to its May 2019 sales figure of 56,797 units. While the company must be happy that the numbers have not fallen in the depressed market, the Jupiter is not gaining speedier traction, remaining in the 50,000-60,000-unit monthly sales bracket.
On June 7, 2019, TVS launched the drum- and disk-brake variants of the Jupiter ZX. While the drum-brake model has been priced at Rs 56,093, the front disc-brake-equipped version costs Rs 58,645 (both prices, ex-showroom, Delhi). Both come equipped with TVS’ version of combined brakes, called SBT, as standard. The ZX variant now gets many new features, including an LED headlight and a digi-analogue instrument cluster.
With the new version, TVS appears to be directly targeting the 110cc Activa 5G that also features an LED headlight and a digi-analogue gauge. The Activa 5G, however, is slightly cheaper at Rs 54,632 (drum) and Rs 56,497 (disc).
The past few months have seen TVS, along with Suzuki Motorcycle India, expand their two-wheeler market share thanks to their scooters' peppy sales.
Suzuki Access 125
At No. 3 is the Suzuki Access 125, which is fast becoming a popular buy and Suzuki's bestselling scooter. The Access seems to be closing the gap with the Jupiter and is at No. 3. In May 2019, with sales of 51,414 units, it was just 5,383 units behind the Jupiter. However, this gap widened in June with the Access 125 at 49,366 units.
On July 16, Suzuki launched a refreshed Access 125 Special Edition (SE) equipped with a disc-brake variant. It is powered by the same 124cc, all-aluminium, four-stroke, single-cylinder engine that develops 8.7hp at 7,000rpm and 10.2Nm of torque at 5,000rpm.
At No. 4 is the Honda Dio, which saw dispatches of 43,749 units – 3,091 units less than the 46,840 units in May and 2,752 units fewer than the 46,501 units in April. The Dio has strong brand equity among young college-going buyers, with Jharkhand, Karnataka and Maharashtra being strong markets.
Now, in a bid to rev up sales, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI), which is targeting semi-urban and rural India to drive up sales, has tied up with Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Company for offering retail finance.
The dark horse among the scooters is the TVS NTorq. Compared to a year ago, the 125cc scooter has jumped four ranks and shot up to the No. 5 spot with 21,738 units. The snazzy-looking scooter has a lot going for it including its youthful appeal. Monthly volumes for the latest TVS 125cc scooter have stabilised at around 15,000-17,000 units. The scooter is riding the growing wave of demand for 125cc scooters, so expect better numbers to come its way later in the year.
Slotting in at sixth is the Yamaha Fascino with 15,519 units, better than the 15,479 units in May 2019 and 14,873 units in April 2019. It is one of the few scooters which are currently seeing an uptick. However, Yamaha needs to do more if the current sales momentum is to be maintained, especially when you consider that it now has a direct rival from Hero in form of the new 110cc Pleasure Plus.
Hero Destini 125
The Hero Destini 125, which was at fifth position in May, has dropped to seventh place in June with 11,292 units – a good 5,460 units less than the 16,752-unit figure of May. In April 2019, the Destini 125 had 16,301 units to its name. The aggressive pricing (sub-Rs 55,000 ex-showroom) seems to have worked for a while for the family scooter but consumer preferences are clearly changing. The Maestro, the other Hero scooter that was in the Top 10 in May, has dropped out of the June 2019 list of bestselling scooters, entirely.
At No. 8 is the Yamaha Ray with 10,696 units, maintaining its composure in a dithering market, This scooter recently made the news when it got updated with a combined braking system and got a new blacked-out colour scheme.
TVS Scooty Pep+, Honda Grazia
The TVS Scooty Pep + with 10,631 units brings up the rear of the Top 10 list with the final member being the Honda Grazia, with 10,388 units. Much was expected of the Grazia when it was first launched but clearly, the big numbers have yet to come.
Scooters going the SUV way?
Finally, it can be said that scooters are to the overall two-wheeler market what SUVs are to the PV segment. Gearless scooters have, over the past decade, brought new life to the mobility scenario across the country.
The past few months have shown that the rate of sales decline for SUVs is slowing, which is good news for Indian OEMs. Will the scooter market replicate this scenario? Watch this space to know more.