Riding high on the success of the Amaze and the City, Honda is now aiming for a hat-trick of successful new models with the launch of its Mobilio MPV, expected to go on sale this July.
The MPV segment, however, has shown an overall decline of 15 percent in the past financial year. At the top-end of the MPV segment, the Toyota Innova, which has ruled for many years, has seen a sharp 28 percent fall in sales. The Maruti Ertiga, India’s first compact, three-row MPV and the Mobilio’s direct rival, has also seen sales drop by a considerable 22 percent.
"If you look at the last financial year (2013-14), there is a big drop in the MPV segment, which is actually in line with the industry itself. But there has been exponential growth before that. Even today, if you look at the current market size and the players that are there, it adds up to between 10-12 thousand units a month, so a year’s volume is about 1.5 lakh units, and that’s not a small segment," says Jnaneshwar Sen, senior vice president (marketing and sales) of Honda Cars India Limited.
However, Honda is confident that the launch of the Mobilio will revive the MPV segment, thanks to the car's finely judged balance of styling and practicality. Honda, which has a strong legacy of MPVs globally with successful products like the Odyssey and Freed, has put its MPV experience to good use with the Mobilio.
Based on an extended version of the Brio platform, the Mobilio has been conceived to be just the right size. "We have put together all the learnings from Honda MPVs over the years in developing the Mobilio to offer space, comfort and utility in a compact package. In the end, we found that a 4.4-metre length was the best answer, as it was not too big and also convenient for parking," said Sen.
Honda has focussed on both styling and interior space during the development of the Mobilio. "From our surveys during the development phase, we found that MPV customers are seeking style, space and comfort, especially in the third row," explains Sen. In fact, Honda is confident of competing with the substantially bigger Innova for interior space and has the big Toyota in its sights too. Interior packaging is one of Honda’s biggest strengths and clambering in and out of the Mobilio at the Auto Expo, it's clear that this is the most space-efficient MPV yet.
While there is no doubt that the Mobilio has been spawned from a Brio, especially when you view it head on, it looks sleeker and sportier than both the Ertiga and the Innova. The kink on the side, which Honda calls the 'lightning bolt', does spice up the side profile, which is typically bland on an MPV. "Styling is one thing consumers are looking for in this segment and we believe we have delivered on this front with the Mobilio," says Sen.
Powered by the same 1.5-litre petrol and diesel engines that do duty in the City, the Mobilio promises to deliver class-leading performance and efficiency. However, this Honda MPV won’t win any price war. According to company sources, the Mobilio will be keenly priced, but will still cost substantially more than the Ertiga. Expect the base petrol Mobilio to cost around Rs 6.2 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) or Rs 40,000 more than the Ertiga LXi.
Though tight-lipped about the final price, Honda Car India’s sales head is confident that customers will be willing to pay a premium for the Mobilio. "The Honda badge gives a lot of emotional assurance to the customer in terms of quality, fuel efficiency and technology," explains Sen.
There’s a massive resurgence of the Honda brand in India, whose sales have swelled by a record 82 percent in the last financial year, and the smartly conceived Mobilio looks all set to ride this wave.