Better late than never -- that's the philosophy which Japanese auto major Honda Motor Co is adopting as it gears up to launch its first diesel model Amaze by next fiscal in India, a market which it admits to have neglected in the past.
Apart from considering a sports utility vehicle on its premium hatchback Jazz platform, using the same 1.5 litre engine that will power the entry level sedan Amaze, R&D officials of the company said they are also working on smaller diesel engines keeping in mind the Indian market.
"The Indian market was low on priority in the past. We used to focus on the US and Japan, and in the last 10 years on China. Now the emerging market is India and Honda has changed its mindset to focus on India," Honda Cars India Ltd (HCIL) CEO and President Hironori Kanayama said in Tokyo.
With the demand for diesel vehicles growing in India, he said it was high time the company entered the segment.
"The trend for diesel vehicles is getting stronger and stronger with the increase in petrol price in India. Honda was late in focusing on the segment but now we have started on it. Amaze is the first step and is a very significant product for us," he said.
The entry level sedan Amaze qualifies for the excise duty benefit, enjoyed by small cars in India and will directly take on Maruti Suzuki's Swift DZiRE, the current undisputed segment leader.
At present, any car with a petrol engine capacity under 1,200 cc or diesel engine under 1,500 cc, but length shorter than four metres, attract an excise duty of 12 per cent.
HCIL will introduce the Amaze in both petrol and diesel options. In Thailand, the model will be equipped with only a petrol engine.
Amaze is based on the platform of its existing small car Brio, which was developed exclusively for the Asian markets, and was introduced in Thailand and India in 2011, followed by Indonesia in 2012.
In September this year, the company had said it would locally produce the diesel engines for Amaze, thereby signalling setting up of a diesel engine plant in India.
When asked if the company is planning a diesel SUV, the fastest growing segment in India, Honda R&D's Junichi Teraoka, who led the Amaze project, said: "An SUV on Jazz platform with the diesel engine used in Amaze is a possibility."
On the programme for diesel engines, particularly for the Indian market, Honda R&D diesel engine project lead, Ryuuji Matsukado said: "We are working on smaller diesel engines for future."
HCIL will produce the 1.5 litre engine at its Tapukara plant in Rajasthan while, the Amaze will be rolled out from its Greater Noida plant.