Japanese car major Honda Motor Corp on Tuesday unveiled the 'almost production-ready' prototype of its latest small car, the Brio, at the Thailand International Motor Expo on Tuesday.
The car is slated to hit Indian roads by September next year. The concept version of the car was showcased at the New Delhi Auto Expo in January earlier this year.
The Brio has been developed for the twin markets of Thailand and India, but it will make its debut in Thailand, for an estimated price of 400,000 Baht.
In India it will cost less than Rs 5 lakh, making it by far the cheapest Honda car in the country. Interestingly enough, the move comes on the heels of the spectacular debacle of its maiden small car Jazz, which is the most expensive small car in India. It will have a 1.2 litre i-Vtec engine similar to the one that the Jazz sports.
"In India we have a strong passion to reach a wider customer-base for our products and services and to accomplish this we have focussed on creating an attractive package at an affordable price," said Takanobu Ito, president and CEO, Honda Motor Corporation.
"Based on the strength of our experience with motorcycle business in India, we are making exhaustive efforts to increase local content to more than 80%," he said. "In India we aim to launch within 2011, with a starting price of less than Rs 500,000."
The Brio comes at a time when arch rival Toyota is set launch its India-centric small car Etios, whose sedan version will be launched on Wednesday.
Unlike Toyota, though, Honda does not plan a sedan version of the Brio, though the company said it would be doable. The Toyota Etios hatchback will hit Indian roads in March 2011.
"Our presence in India so far was limited to the premium segments and we were not present in the entry-level segments hence we have (unfortunately) not grown as fast as the market this year," Ito said.
"With the Brio, we believe we will offer a car appropriately priced to the needs of the Indian consumer" Ito added.
Sales of Honda cars in India this year so far have grown by 3% while the passenger car segment has expanded by over 34% in the first seven months.
The Brio and the Toyota Etios will join the list of cars like Volkswagen Polo, Fiat Grande Punto and Nissan Micra, which have been trying to lure consumers away from Maruti Suzuki Swift. Benchmarked against the latter, the Brio is smaller in size but promises to be bigger in interior space and fuel efficiency.
(The writer's travel and stay were sponsored by Honda).