Honda WR-V. Photo: Afsar baig
A comeback by Japanese car maker Honda in the past few months could make Tata Motors' ambition of emerging as the third largest domestic car player by 2019 a bit challenging. Tata Motors had come close to overtaking Honda in domestic passenger vehicle volumes during FY17.
In FY17, Honda’s sales had dipped 18 per cent to 157,313 units as its best seller, City, struggled to compete with Maruti Suzuki’s Ciaz. In the same period, Tata Motors rode on the success of its hatchback Tiago to post a 22 per cent surge in domestic sales, to 153,151 units, which brought it closer to Honda, the fourth largest player.
In the past four months, however, two key developments for Honda have brought it back on the growth path. Honda's growth has been helped by the launch of the new City in February and the new crossover W-RV in March. The company’s April volume has zoomed 38 per cent and the company has reversed a declining trend since February. If we go by the 2017 calendar year, Honda has sold 63,271 vehicles in the first four months while Tata Motors has clocked a volume of 55,439 units. In effect, Honda has sold 14 per cent more than Tata and is now strongly positioned at the fourth spot.
Tata Motors has been growing as well like it did in the previous year. However, the gap between Honda and Tata is widening. Tata Motors has also launched two new vehicles in the past four months, the Hexa SUV and Tigor compact sedan. However, for each of the months since January, its sales volume happens to be lower than Honda. Tata is expected to launch its compact SUV, Nexon, this year. So, the fight for the number fourth position will continue. On the other hand, SUV major M&M, the third largest name in the domestic passenger vehicle market, has not grown for the past few months.
However, Tata Motors is confident that it will move towards its target. "We have a well thought out strategy in place for our passenger vehicles business and will not comment on a story based on competition," said a Tata Motors spokesperson.
Jnaneswar Sen, senior vice-president (sales & marketing), Honda Cars, is upbeat. "We should continue to witness growth due to the extremely good response to the City and WR-V. Other models like Amaze and Jazz are stable. We are expanding our reach and added 49 new sales outlets in FY17. The focus is on enhancing experience," he said. The company's total number of outlets now stands at 344. The new City has received more than 26,000 bookings since its launch, while the WR-V has got about 13,500 bookings.