Wake up Honda, wake up!

NDTV_Honda_CBF650
Source: NDTV Auto

4th August 2015 was a much anticipated day for bike enthusiasts and journalists in India. Honda had organized RevFest in 8 cities to launch the 4 new bike models.

  1. Honda CBF 650 (@7.30 lakhs ex-showroom Delhi)
  2. Honda CB Hornet 160R (Naked version of Unicorn with 160 cc engine)
  3. Honda CBR 250R (We will talk about this in detail below)
  4. Honda CBR 150R (I don’t see any need to talk about it)

The ‘4 new models’ launch brought major disappointment to the bike enthusiasts. I think only those who are willing to shell 7.30 lakhs for a bike might be happy.

Before I mention what went wrong, let me tell why most of us were excited about the news of the new CBR250R.

Indian motorcycle market has changed quite a lot in the last decade. 15 years back, 100cc was an affordable and sensible option for “kitna deti hai” obsessed masses. Then the focus and likes moved to 150cc which proved to be a perfect balance between power and fuel economy. And then, not so long ago, 200cc class emerged with more power and acceptable fuel economy. Undoubtedly, even today the sales figures for 100-150cc class are high. But we live in the times where it is easy to dump our 1 year old gadget to buy the next upgrade. This is facilitated by luring finance options (like EMIs on Credit Cards), that help us to comfortably stretch our budgets in the quest to own the next best thing.

Same is the case with 150-200cc bike owners. We may have owned these for less than 2 years and though we just use them to travel between office and home, but it feels like we have traveled from Kashmir to Kanyakumari on them. And since we will continue to do so, why shouldn’t we think of buying something more premium and powerful?

And then you see the need of the 200+ cc motorcycle segment. Karizma, Pulsar (200 & 220) and Royal Enfields (350 & 500) initially filled the space comfortably. Ninja 250R (now 300R) was expensive at the price tag of Rs. 3 Lacs. And then Honda came up with CBR250R in the year 2010 that made the dream to own a big looking bike achievable.

Honda CBR 250R in 2010 had ticked most of the boxes. It had the big bike look, decent power, then exclusive ABS option and most importantly comfortable riding position. It was not a race track tool but a good touring machine. With the impressive looks, great suspension and ABS as an optional safety feature, it certainly made the masses take a note of it.

Coming back to the Revfest, Honda re-launched CBR 250R. What are the upgrades you may ask? The answer is new colors and stickers, the same age old mantra that Honda (since it was Hero-Honda) has been implementing to lure the Indians customers and trying to keep the sales going. Stickering job might have helped them in 2005; but same is not the case now.

Now, we have plenty of options in 200+ cc within a 2 Lac budget. Just take a look at the below table and one should understand why a major upgrade for Honda CBR250R is needed.

200_Comparison
(Sources: Bikewale.com and Autocar.com)

The above numbers are approximations, but they clearly give us an idea how competition is leaving CBR 250R far behind.  While the Bajaj pulsar RS 200 that sells at 1.18 Lac is a serious threat to the expensive CBR 250R, the equally priced KTM Duke 390 knocks it out of the competition.

And the on-slaughter on CBR 250R does not end here. While Honda engineers hit their beds for a good night sleep, the rivals are busy building next the upgrade not only to stay in but also to lead the competition. It is worth mentioning here that KTM Duke 390 received 20 upgrades within a year of its launch and the list of upgrades does not include the price! The new version is still available at the same old price. These upgrades were based on the reviews and feedback from the customers.

Is Honda prepared to face this level of commitment shown by other manufactures? It does not look like.

So dear Honda, please wake up and do something to save our beloved CBR 250R and that surely does not mean only sticker jobs.

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