Royal Enfield has a market share of over 75% in in the 200cc to 500cc motorcycle segment in India
Aiming to challenge the supremacy of Royal Enfield in middle-weight bike segment, Honda Motorcycles and Scooter India (HMSI) will be launching its first cruiser in the Indian market tomorrow, 30th Sep 2020. While nothing is 100% sure as of now, it is expected that Honda’s new motorcycle will be based on Rebel 300.
As may be recalled, Honda Rebel 300 was patented in India in 2017. Rebel 300 and its 500 cc sibling have been on sale in international markets since 2017. The 2020 Honda Rebel 300 and 500 models were unveiled at 2019 EICMA in Milan.
For the Indian market, Honda is expected to name the cruiser motorcycle as ‘H’NESS’. This will be pronounced as Highness. Honda had applied for trademark application of Highness first, but that was objected. And thus they decided to patent the name H’NESS instead.
Earlier Honda had released a preview of the motorcycle’s exhaust note, which had a thumping sound, quite similar to that of Royal Enfield motorcycles. This is a strong clue about the specific customer base that Honda’s new cruiser will be targeting in the country.
The motorcycle is expected to have a retro look and feel, even though it will be loaded with a range of modern equipment such as all-LED lights and digital instrument cluster. Some features come across as quite radical, for example, the elevated water-drop shaped fuel tank. Overall, the cruiser has a lean mass and is expected to work well for both city rides as well as long distance touring.
If it is the Rebel 300 which is coming to India, than powering the cruiser will be a 286 cc, DOHC, liquid cooled, single cylinder engine that delivers max power of 30.4 ps at 8000 rpm and max torque of 27.4 Nm at 6500 rpm. This is mated to a 6-speed gearbox. It is expected that slipper clutch will be offered with Highness, as is available with other Honda motorcycles.
Primary rival of Honda HNESS will be the upcoming Royal Enfield Meteor 350. Highness will also compete with Jawa 300 cc motorcycles. While Jawa may have faltered on deliveries, problems like these are unlikely to happen with Honda. The Japanese automaker has the technology, experience and a wide countrywide network to back its new cruiser motorcycle.
One of Royal Enfield’s USPs is that its motorcycles are quite affordable. To compete effectively, Honda will have to reduce the price gap between Highness and its rivals. While Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is expected to be launched at a starting price of Rs 1.68 lakh, Jawa BS6 currently retails in the range of Rs 1.73 lakh to Rs 1.82 lakh. Honda Highness could be launched in the price range of Rs 2.5-3 lakh. Honda is expected to increase localization in order to launch Highness at a competitive price point.
Honda H’NESS will most likely be sold via the premium ‘Honda Big Wing’ dealerships. Launched in 2019, Honda Big Wing dealerships currently sell big bikes such as CBR650R, CB1000R, CBR Fireblade, Africa Twin and Gold Wing. After Highness 300, Honda could also launch the corresponding derivative of Rebel 500 in the Indian market.