Admitting the shift was sudden, Sen said: “The rapid dieselisation of the market has happened only in the last one year, as the price difference between diesel and petrol has gone up from Rs 10 to Rs 21. We had to prioritise our efforts to be a big brand with big volumes, which will come from Brio.”
Sen ruled out importing diesel engines, as many others had done. “We believe we make the best engines and, therefore, there is no question of importing. Till then, we will continue to dominate the petrol segment.”
The premium mid-sized sedan segment is one of the fastest-growing, with sales rising 25 per cent a year on an average. About 140,000 units were sold in 2010-11. Honda City has been the leader for a decade. Its share was 35 per cent in 2010. Its nearest competitor, Hyundai Verna, sold half as many units.
Honda is not the only company which has felt the need for a diesel variant in this category. A few years ago, Maruti Suzuki introduced SX4 petrol, but could sell 800-2,000 units a month. This February, it launched a diesel model. There have been over 10,000 bookings so far.
Honda will also face fiercer competition in this segment. Hyundai Motor, for instance, launched the new Verna this week, with diesel variants priced between Rs 8.09 lakh and Rs 10.75 lakh. Ford Global Fiesta’s petrol and diesel versions will be launched in July.
READ THE MOTORING COMPARISON OF THE HONDA CITY & VOLKSWAGEN VENTO RIGHT HERE:
Volkswagen Vento versus Honda City - Spoiling for a fight