Following the launch of Amaze, the first diesel car by Honda last year, there has been high anticipation for the 4th Generation Honda City and the introduction of its diesel variant in the market. It was the diesel variant of Amaze that turned the fortunes for Honda despite the recession in the auto industry as it accounted for 55,000 of 79,000 cars that Honda sold between April and November last year. With the launch of the 4th Generation City, Honda is eyeing a greater share in the midsize Sedan market. Jnaneswar Sen, Senior Vice President â€“ Marketing & Sales, talks to Devansh Sharma about Hondaâ€™s performance in the year 2013 and their future plans. Some excerpts:
What factors have contributed towards the growth of Honda despite the slump in the Indian automobile industry?
There are several factors responsible for this growth. First is the launch of new models and the much awaited 1.5 Liter i-DETC diesel engine with the launch of Honda Amaze. The second is excellent word of mouth publicity. The demand for Honda cars continues to be very strong. Our existing consumers are very happy and they further refer us to their friends and family. Itâ€™s like snowballing the consumer-ship.
What role has Honda Amaze played in increasing Hondaâ€™s market share in its segment?
The launch of Amaze with a diesel variant has created a new playground for Honda. Earlier, we were not present in that segment. Partly, because of Amaze, our market share increased up to 66 percent. Amaze has been instrumental in increasing our sales.
What are your plans for 2014? Are you planning to increase the product portfolio of Honda cars in 2014?
We have launched two new models in India; Honda Mobilio and The All New 3rd Generation Honda jazz at the Auto Expo. Besides, we have also showcased a wide range of exhibits including cutting edge technologies and products such as the NSX Concept, the Accord Hybrid 4th generation all-new City and the Amaze equipped with advanced i-DTEC diesel engine.
What kept you waiting for so long before entering into the diesel car market in India?
We wanted to set a new benchmark in this market. Honda did have a diesel engine before this but it was a heavy 2.2 Liter engine.. We were developing a 1.5 Liter engine under the Green Earth Technology series.
Considering that other leading players like Volkswagen Vento, Skoda Rapid, Hyundai Verna and so on, have been leading this category especially with the options of diesel variants, how do you plan to position the 4th generation City amid this clutter?
Honda City has always been an aspirational car for its audience. There has been very high anticipation amongst the Honda loyalists who have been eagerly waiting for the 4th Generation City and introduction of the Diesel variant. City is Indiaâ€™s most fuel efficient car across all segments. The petrol variant is already close to 50 percent market share. We are sure that the new City will further strengthen the bond with our consumers and we will lead this segment.
What will be the marketing strategy for Honda in 2014 and which media will you focus on?
Our focus will be on a 360 degree approach including electronic and digital media like we did for the 4th Generation City. We launched two television Commercials (TVCâ€™s)- one before the launch and the other after the launch. The pre- launch campaign focused on the power and new features.
The post- launch TVC â€˜A Greater Driveâ€™, talks about the target consumer and the product. The story revolves around a golfer who inspires kids to study if they aspire to have a greater driving experience. The TVC projects the target user as a sophisticated, stylish achiever but most importantly a class apart from the others.
On the digital front for City, a Twitter contest was organized highlighting its fuel efficiency. The webcast witnessed 1.21 lakh visitors and 3.24 lakh mobile hits.
For Honda Amaze we came up with a pre-launch build-up campaign that trended on Twitter. Digital promotions to the right target group generated 50,000 queries.
Consumer experience is the buzz word in the marketing industry. What initiatives have you taken towards enhancing the consumer experience?
Since we have recently unveiled the new 4th Generation City and the improved version of Honda Amaze there is a lot of buzz in the showrooms. And once this settles down we will come up with some experiential initiatives to get closer to our consumers.
Honda Amaze is doing really well and the new City has also received a warm response. How do you plan to meet the increasing demand?
We have started a third shift at the Greater Noida plant in November 2013, while earlier we were operating on two shifts. Our Rajasthan plant will be ready in this quarter. Both have the production capacity of 1.2 lakh units per annum.