Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Honda ventures into the compact market

A day after the Japanese car maker Honda celebrated 50 years of venturing overseas, the company Wednesday launched Jazz, its first compact offering for the Indian market.

"In the 12 years in India, we have had products only in the premium sedan categories. With Jazz, which is one of our most successful offerings globally, we have entered the compact market in India," said Honda Siel Cars president and chief executive Masahiro Takedagawa at the launch.

About 2.5 million units of Jazz, which is also marketed as Fit in certain markets, is sold in about 130 markets worldwide and comes to India eight years after being first introduced in Japan.

The Indian version comes with a 1.2-litre petrol engine - the same as Honda City - in order to save the 12 percent excise duty that the government imposes on bigger engines.

The attached price tag of Rs.6.98 lakh-Rs.7.33 lakh makes Jazz the second costliest offering in the compact category after the Fiat 500, which at double the price point falls under the luxury segment.

Takedagawa said although the 1.2-litre engine has been introduced to save on excise duty, the company is in constant touch with its dealer network for consumer feedback, and could introduce the more popular 1.5-litre engine in future.

Honda Siel is hoping to cross the 20,000-unit mark per year for the new car, Takedagawa indicated.

The compact car market commands over 75 percent of the overall passenger car sales in India and has more than 20 offerings from about nine manufacturers.

"I will be happy if the Jazz achieves half the sales volume of City this year," he said. Honda sells roughly 40,000 units of City in India annually.

Apart from the Jazz and City, the company currently has three other models in its line-up including the sports utility vehicle CR-V. It has plants in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

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