Honda will not be bringing its attractive looking Vezel SUV to India. The Jazz-based SUV (codename: 2XP) that was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in November 2013 seemed perfect for our market, and there were plans to bring it here by 2015, but those plans have now been dropped.
A major reason for this decision is the fact that the rupee has lost 20 percent of its strength in just two years, considerably driving up the Vezel’s cost. It would have had to be priced at around Rs 16 lakh in India, making it significantly more expensive than its competition – the Renault Duster, Nissan Terrano and Ford EcoSport, which set the benchmark for prices in this segment.
“My impression is that the Vezel is a little expensive to fit into this vacuum. It has technologically advanced features and the localisation of these features would take much more effort and expense, making it difficult for us at this moment,” said Yoshiyuki Matsumoto, managing officer Asia and Oceania, explaining the challenges Honda will face in filling the void between the City and the CR-V with the Vezel.
As an example, he said, “The Vezel employs an electric handbrake that will take a lot more effort and investment to locally design and manufacture. Moreover, swapping this for a regular handbrake will involve a fair deal of redesign and engineering costs, and isn’t viable.” Inside sources also revealed that the Vezel’s cockpit is quite expensive, making it difficult to price it competitively.
The good news is that the company is now evaluating the Honda Brio’s platform for an all-new compact SUV. Developed specifically for emerging markets, this platform is relatively inexpensive and hence, can allow Honda to price the SUV competitively. Honda has already stretched this platform for the Amaze compact saloon and further still for the Mobilio MPV, displaying its flexibility to accommodate a longer wheelbase.
Still, there are a few challenges. The Brio’s platform hasn’t been developed to accommodate an SUV body style and the wheel envelopes will have to be redesigned to house larger wheels. One of Honda’s engineers admitted, “We’ll need to extensively modify the platform’s wheel well to accommodate the larger wheels required on an SUV and this isn’t an easy task.” That said, the company is ready to take up the challenge.
A low-cost compact SUV will grant Honda entry into a lucrative segment and will significantly strengthen its portfolio. However, it isn’t clear if Honda will go with a sub-four-metre length (like the EcoSport) to take advantage of the tax benefits that’ll help price the SUV competitively. However, we wouldn’t expect this Brio-based compact SUV to enter our market before 2016.