Honda India currently retails the CR-V SUV and WR-V crossover in the utility vehicle segment
SUVs will be a priority for the automaker moving forward
New SUV models in the pipeline, with an all-new compact SUV coming in 2022
The surging popularity of SUVs has caught the eye of every automaker in the country. New entrants are prudently targeting the fast growing segment and existing players are working towards expanding their SUV presence. Honda is another car manufacturer that is working on leveraging the strong demand by bringing in new SUV models to our market, as confirmed by Rajesh Goel, Senior Vice President and Director - Sales and Marketing, Honda Cars India in a recent interview with Autocar India.
While the sales of utility vehicles (UVs) have been picking up pace in recent years, Honda has been slow to adapt and capitalise on the shift in popular market segments. "With some sense of embarrassment, I think our president has said on multiple occasions that we have a full sedan line-up now, but we have gaps in our SUV line-up. I think in the SUV range, we are not the fastest off the block," admitted Goel.
A look at the UV segment reveals that Honda currently retails only the CR-V SUV and the Jazz-based WR-V crossover in our market. The automaker recently pulled the plug on the slow-selling BR-V MPV and even called off plans for bringing the HR-V midsize SUV to India, last year.
Goel opined that meeting the changing needs of existing and potential Honda customers by developing relevant products was crucial. "I wish going forward, we are in position to answer customer needs as quickly as possible. In my line-up, I have a need to put an SUV. We are looking at it actively," he said.
Though its international portfolio does include more than a few SUVs, Honda is choosing to tread carefully and introduce models which are more in-sync with the Indian market. Explaining the importance of getting it right, Goel said, "We would not like to be in a situation where we do multiple SUVs and then try to keep figuring out what is happening."
As we have previously reported, the company is working on two new SUVs for India which will be built on the platform (codename: 2UA) that underpins the second-gen Amaze. The first product will be a sub-four metre SUV that will rival the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Hyundai Venue, and it is expected sometime in 2022.
The second, a 4.2-4.3 metre-long model, is being envisioned as a rival to the growing crop of midsize SUVs like the Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos. Notably, Honda has even registered a new ZR-V model name, as per a recent trademark application. However, this SUV is still in the exploratory stage and hasn’t been given the green light as yet.
SUVs could help the car major build scale and reduce overcapacity at its manufacturing facilities, making the business more sustainable. The company has two plants in India – one in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh and the other in Tapukara, Rajasthan – with a production capacity of 1,00,000 units and 1,80,000 units per annum, respectively. In comparison, Honda’s domestic sales stood at 1,02,016 units in what was arguably a tumultuous FY2020.
Though the Japanese automaker is cognisant of the importance of SUVs in its line-up, new models in the category are not expected soon, at least not in 2020. "SUV is a top priority item for us, so I would be happy to do it as soon as possible but (it is) not happening this year," concluded Goel.