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Splendor gets a taste of competition, finally

Kyle Pereira / Mumbai 04 Jun 12 | 12:08 AM

Last month, Suzuki made its debut in the 100-110cc motorcycle segment in India with a model named Hayate. A mere five days later, Honda launched the Dream Yuga, also a bike intended for the same segment. Will the Hero MotoCorp Splendor, the largest selling motorcycle in the world and the current segment leader, finally have some competition?

India is the world’s second-largest motorcycle market, and the 100-110cc motorcycle segment forms a major section of it. Yadvinder S Guleria, vice-president, sales and marketing, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India, says overall, the 100-110cc segment contributes around 50 per cent of the Indian two-wheeler industry. In India, Honda is already present in this segment with the 110cc CB Twister, aimed at the youth. However, to expand the presence of the Honda brand within the 100-110cc mass motorcycle segment, Honda has launched the Dream Yuga.

Indeed, Honda, which was the other half of Hero Honda before the two companies went their separate ways, hasn’t had a product to take on the big-selling Splendor until now.

Suzuki, a relatively newer entrant in the two-wheeler market, also appears to be thinking along the same lines. “While we are the last player to enter this segment, it is important to us as well," says Atul Gupta, Suzuki Motorcycle India’s vice president, sales and marketing. “Our scooters are doing fine, but to come back into mass market motorcycles, we’ve chosen the Hayate."

Unlike the past, where manufacturers simply imported older foreign models, rebadged them and sold them in the country, things are different now. “In line with its concept of an India- specific mass motorcycle, the Dream Yuga has been specially developed for Indian customers, keeping in mind their practical commuting needs and varied riding conditions", says Guleria. Honda claims that the Dream Yuga features better ground clearance, a relatively longer, wider and lower seat and a tough yet lightweight single tube diamond frame, coupled with comfortable suspension.

Suzuki too has been doing their homework with the Hayate. “In this segment, pricing is important, and the Hayate offers value for money. The motorcycle has been designed in such a way that it provides decent power, decent styling and good value for the customer," according to Gupta.

The ex-showroom, New Delhi price of the Hero MotoCorp Splendor + starts at Rs 42,950, while that of the Honda Dream Yuga starts at Rs 44,642. The New Delhi ex-showroom prices of the Suzuki Hayate, on the other hand, start at Rs 38,212 for the cheaper of the two variants available.

With competition in this segment getting fiercer by the day, companies are also investing heavily in the marketing aspect of their product lineup. The Dream Yuga was launched mid-May, and Honda has begun promoting the 110cc motorcycle through regional launches in key cities all across the country and via print advertisements and TVCs. To further push the Dream Yuga, Bollywood star Akshay Kumar has been chosen as the brand ambassador, in order for the masses to relate to the brand and accept it.

Like Honda, Suzuki too has a major Bollywood star as a brand ambassador - Salman Khan. According to Gupta, the brand ambassador was chosen to make inroads into the target market. “The Hayate is primarily targetted at rural and semi-urban markets. A van/fleet campaign will be carried out in rural areas to get more people acquainted with the brand, and our brand ambassador makes it easier for the customer to relate to the brand and identify with it. To expand our service network, we will be training local mechanics and providing them with the tools and know-how required to service the Hayate in those areas. In fact, we will be appointing nearly 500 service outlets that could be dealer-run or operated by company-trained local mechanics to carry out services as per the specified schedule, warranty repairs and the like. This way, our service network will percolate even into areas that weren’t tapped in the past, and the customer is always closer to a Suzuki service facility."

He says that Suzuki’s monthly sales target of the Hayate for the first year is about 10,000 units. The numbers could grow in the future, but the next 12 months are most crucial, according to Gupta. Honda has even higher numbers in mind, at about 300,000 units per year for the Dream Yuga.

As the country’s economy grows, motorcycling tastes have changed. From a focus on just fuel efficiency, styling and comfort are now major decision-making factors too. Features like metallic paint, colourful stickering and electric self-starters are now percolating into the commuter motorcycle segment as well.

“Since the 100-110cc motorcycle market has continued to show a growth pattern of 10 per cent for the last three years on a very high base volume, competition is heating up" says Guleria. With this increase in competition, it is the customer who stands to benefit, with a wider variety of choices.

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