'B+ is a fiercely competed car segment'

Honda Cars India Senior Vice President (Sales &Marketing) Jnaneswar Sen

'B+ is a fiercely competed car segment'

Ahead of the launch of the company’s third generation Jazz hatchback, Jnaneswar Sen, senior vice president (sales and marketing), Honda Cars India (HCIL), recently took time off to respond to an emailed questionnaire from Deccan Herald’s Hrithik Kiran Bagade and Umesh M Avvannavar. He also disclosed the company’s strategies with regard to the B+ segment.

You are launching a new model of the Jazz in India. What are your expectations from this launch?
The upcoming Jazz will be the third generation of the car and carries a strong legacy. It is doing exceptionally well in all the markets where it has been launched, including US and Japan.
Honda Jazz would offer a very high value proposition coupled with premiumness to its customers. The styling, look, performance and high versatility will be key differentiator from its competitors. A fast evolving market which is now receptive to the B+ segment shall provide a good platform for the new Jazz.
 
How many units of the earlier model of the Jazz did Honda sell? What were the reasons for the earlier model to be abruptly discontinued in India?
The previous generation Jazz was launched in 2009 in India with cumulative sales of more than 23,000. Since Honda has the policy of selling the latest versions of the models and the second generation Jazz was replaced by the new generation Jazz in the global market, we had a gap in between during which we launched many new models, including the Amaze, the all-new City, and Mobilio. Now we are all set to launch the third Generation of Jazz in India.
Please define the B+ segment in automobiles. What distinguishes it from other segments?
The B+ segment or the premium hatchback segment is currently the largest passenger vehicle segment in the country with a volume of 521,000 units in FY 2014-15. The segment includes premium hatchbacks with seats up to five, length normally between 3,600-4,000 mm, and engine capacity varying between 1.2 l to 1.5 l.

How is the B+ segment growing in India? What is the size of the B+ segment in India in relation to the overall market size? What are the customer trends seen in this category?
As we said, the B+ segment or the premium hatchback segment is currently the largest passenger vehicle segment in the country with a volume of 521,000 units in 2014-15. Among the hatchbacks, during the past one year, while A and B segment have de-grown by seven per cent and 10 per cent respectively, the B+ segment has shown significant 10 per cent growth, clearly indicating the increasing aspirations among customers to opt for bigger and premium cars.
The Jazz will appeal to customers from diverse profiles. The target customer is the young and dynamic early achiever who wants the best of the best in life.
 
How has Honda taken to the said trends, what are your expectations?
The upcoming Jazz is a premium product. It has done exceptionally well in the markets it has been launched. The car packs a host of best-in-class features, stylish and sporty looks, performance, and high versatility. We expect that with these qualities, we would have a compelling proposition. The market has become receptive to such products and we believe that it would find its way well into the market.

Is there strong competition in the B+ segment? What is driving customers away from the more affordable A segment, which earlier ruled the Indian car buying agenda? Your comments.
The B+ segment or the premium hatchback segment is currently the largest passenger vehicle segment in the country. It is a fiercely competed segment with most of the industry players pitching in with their products. We believe that the growing disposable income of the younger generation and their growing tendency to trade up for value is powering the B and B+ segments.
 
What are Honda’s plans in the B+ segment, and in the Indian car market at large?
We plan to maintain the momentum we have achieved with our products. Our product line-up is fresh and would be further boosted when we launch the Honda Jazz. We have been on a successful expansion drive in the past couple of years. We have expanded our production facilities, the dealership network and the product line-up. We are confident of growing steadily and doing well in the Indian market.

Will the new Jazz sport both petrol and diesel engines? How many units do you plan to sell in India?
The new Jazz will have both the petrol and diesel variants.
We are hopeful that the product would be well received by the consumers and would do well in terms of sales but it will be difficult to put any numbers at this point of time. Also, the sales would vary with the various market forces and determinants.

What is the present capacity of your plant(s)? Are there any plans to augment production capacity?
Our current production capacity is 2.4 lakh units per year from the two plants contributing 1.2 lakh units each. With the new investment of Rs 380 crore the production capacity of the Tapukara (Rajasthan) capacity is going to be further boosted and will become 1,80,000 units per year by the middle of 2016.
DH News Service

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