Honda to roll out Jazz by mid-2009

Japanese carmaker Honda said its ‘Honda Jazz’ hatchback would hit the Indian roads by middle of this year, though the compact car would trail the company’s ‘Honda City’ sedan in terms of sales volumes.

“The Honda Jazz will be a premium segment hatchback and we do not expect that it will overcome the sales numbers of the Honda City sedan in India,” Masahiro Takedagawa, president and CEO of the company’s subsidiary Honda Siel Cars India, said, when asked whether the new car, that would mark the company’s entry into the volume-segment, become its leading brand for sales.

The company also launched the advanced version of its premium sedan Honda Accord with a 3.5 litre i-VTEC engine, priced between Rs. 24.8 lakh and Rs. 25.35 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

Honda is currently grappling with the problem of making the Honda Jazz (which would sport a 1.2-litre petrol engine), price-competitive for the Indian market. The Jazz is priced higher than the City in many foreign markets, including Thailand, but still manages to sell more, Takedagawa said.

However, the Indian market is price conscious and analysts point out that people may not be very eager to pay a big price for a hatchback, despite its luxury and safety features.

Takedagawa, however, said he was not worried about the premium tag associated with the Jazz. “The price or premiumness will be determined by the customer. We are confident that the model will be well accepted in India,” he said.

The Honda City sedan currently sells for Rs. 7.5-8.6 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) and averages around 5,000 cars in monthly sales. The Honda Jazz would share the platform and many components with City, making it easier for Honda to source the inputs in bulk at competitive prices and keep localisation at over 70% initially.

Honda Jazz gets the premium tag due to the company’s focus on making it luxurious and safe by adding features like airbags, ABS (anti-lock braking system) and G-CON Technology (an advanced passive shielding that offers the occupant a survival zone in case of an unavoidable collision). Honda, however, believes that customers would be willing to pay for the additional features.

Asked if the company was looking at exports of the Jazz to other markets, Takedagawa said the primary focus would be on India. “There are no export plans for the Jazz as yet.”

Honda Honda Siel Cars India currently seels the new Honda City, Honda Civic, Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda CR-V, Honda Accord and Honda Accord V6 in India.

Source: Economic Times