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Honda plans to launch over 10 two-wheeler models in next year

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Mumabi: Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) has added another chapter in its India story with the rollout of its year-end 14.5bhp, 163cc CB Unicorn motorcycle. Its 150cc-engined CB Unicorn though will continue to co-exist, as the newest addition to the CB Unicorn stable comes in two variants with a starting price of Rs 69,350 (ex-showroom Delhi) for the standard trim and Rs 74,414 for the CBS edition.

Despatches of the new five-speed gearbox-equipped motorcycle start in the third week of January 2015 and will arrive at dealerships by the first week of February. The CB Unicorn 160 will be made at the company’s Manesar facility.

Based on Honda’s Eco Technology delivering a mileage of 62kpl, the new bike has been developed at Honda Japan with some styling work undertaken at HMSI’s Technical centre at Manesar and its India R&D centre.

Styling-wise, the new CB Unicorn 160 resembles the CB Trigger with minor tweaks. The headlamps and the tail-lamps have been restyled slightly in order to differentiate the CB Unicorn 160 from the CB Trigger. The fuel tank and saree-guard design are also unique to the CB Unicorn 160, which comes with an LED tail light, a chrome-finished muffler and floating side cowls.

Keita Muramatsu, president and CEO, HMSI, told Autocar Professional on the sidelines of the launch that 2015 will see the addition of seven new models; with new variants, the number will rise to over 10.

Meanwhile, the CB Unicorn 160 will target urban youth in the 25-30 year-old range. “We are confident that with the CB Unicorn 160, we will drive customer demand and further strengthen Honda’s position in the 150-180cc motorcycle segment,” added YS Guleria, VP (sales and marketing). The CB Unicorn 160 will take on rivals Suzuki Gixxer, Yamaha FZ and the TVS Apache RTR 160.

The new bike, to be on sold in six colours, will be produced at the company’s Manesar facility. The bike’s new engine comes with a long stroke which means extra torque and higher fuel efficiency. It is also equipped with a weight balancer that reduces vibrations.

Muramatsu said that HMSI is looking at annual sales of 300,000 units for the CB Unicorn 160. This year the company’s plants are running at full capacity so the manufacturer is juggling between various models in terms of capacities. When its new facility in Gujarat, for which it laid the foundation recently is operational, scooter production will be shifted there creating additional space for motorcycles in the existing factories.

In terms of the two-wheeler industry, HMSI grew at 12 percent between April-November 2014. In the motorcycle segment, the biggest sales came from the 150cc-180cc category that grew 20 percent with a contribution of 9.1 percent to the industry share. The overall motorcycle segment grew at 7 percent with the majority of the 12 percent growth contributed by automatic scooters that grew at 28 percent.

“It was imperative for us to be there at the right time and that too in the style segment because we have the basic in terms of the 150cc CB Unicorn and the CB Trigger bikes at the top end of technology and advancement. Hence, we are targeting the in-between space with this new model,” said Guleria.

The 150-180cc motorcycle segment in urban areas is a strong market for the CB Unicorn that was first launched in October 2004. Typically, the south and west regions as also the east have been building up very fast for this bike. These regions will continue to remain Honda’s priority markets for this segment.  At present, HMSI holds close to 20 percent share in this segment, down from the earlier 25 percent due to capacity constraints. The existing CB Unicorn has a wait list of 10,000 customers and Guleria said Honda has to go in for a prudent model mix to adjust to demand from January onwards. Once production is streamlined, Honda looks to target a 25 percent plus share of this market segment.

Its export strategy going forward is expand its presence in markets of South America as well as  neighbouring countries of Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Currently HMSI’s exports stand at 150,000 units with the fiscal year expected to end at 180,000 units.

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