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It’s still Hero No 1 with Honda in hot pursuit

Our Bureau | Updated on January 08, 2018

September high for the Indian company

Hero MotoCorp touched a new high in September with sales of over seven lakh units with closest rival and former ally, Honda, at six lakh units. TVS and Bajaj were in the three lakh plus zone, which pretty much meant that two-wheeler companies had no reasons to complain.

After all, two million units in a single month is no mean achievement though it was not entirely unexpected given the festive mood and huge dispatches from factories. Given that the mood in the country has been sombre lately with GDP growth falling below six per cent and the business community still concerned about the aftermath of GST, the two-wheeler industry has emerged the proverbial cheerleader.

In this backdrop, what remains intriguing is the continuing tug-of-war between Hero and Honda where the former has held its Numero Uno slot even after six years of going it alone. Its erstwhile Japanese partner has been on a massive capacity expansion spree since then with annual production numbers up four fold to over six million units.

Despite this, Hero has not yielded the top position even while the gap narrowed down in recent months. To Honda’s credit, it has created a huge momentum in the scooter segment where its Activa is the largest selling two-wheeler brand today. In the process, this has prompted other Japanese companies like Yamaha and Suzuki to join the scooter bandwagon even while TVS has bagged the second position with Hero trailing behind.

Over the years, companies like Bajaj Auto have tried their best to take on Hero’s Splendor with models like Discover but this has not worked. The Activa has ended up being its toughest competitor with the commuter space now rapidly shifting to scooters. The fact that Hero continues to stay ahead shows that the Splendor brand is still drawing the crowds even while a host of new models have entered the scene.

Honda has made no bones about the fact that it is keen on continuing its frenzied pace of growth even while it has not been able to replicate the stupendous success of the Activa with its motorcycle range. The company is now betting big on its rural drive to attract more buyers by offering affordable options like the recently launched Cliq.

The bigger challenge for two-wheeler companies, and the auto industry as a whole, is in meeting the Bharat Stage VI emission norms that come into force in April 2020. Honda has gone on record to state that this is one platform where it is more than confident of showcasing its technological prowess. Whether this will result in a change in the leadership stakes vis-a-vis Hero is the million dollar question.

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Published on October 05, 2017
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