Last month, our sister publication, Autocar India, tested Honda’s new diesel-engined car at the carmaker’s test track in Japan. Based on the Brio, the saloon that has been christened Amaze will make its India debut by mid-2013.
It is a car that has the potential to be a game-changer in India's midsize market for several reasons. Firstly, being diesel-powered, it makes up for a crucial gap in Honda’s India line-up that didn’t have a diesel to help it take on rival brands.
Secondly, it will take on the big daddy, the Maruti Dzire that averages 12,000 units a month, and the Tata Indigo eCS that sells in the region of 3,000 units a month. While the Dzire has been a formidable force in its segment, the Tata offering has been relatively flat. And thirdly, being under four metres, the Amaze will qualify for the excise concession that is given to these cars in India. All these positives makes it a car to watch out, one that can swing it for Honda in India.
Honda has launched only a petrol version of the car in Thailand where it will be powered by a 1.2-litre engine. A similar engine will power the petrol version here.
The new all-aluminium 1.5 diesel engine that will power the Amaze will also likely find its way in the new Brio diesel hatchback but as of now, Honda is apparently struggling with pricing issues.
Finally, the Amaze represents a major engineering feat for Honda which has downrated its 1.6 diesel to launch an engine that, it says, is its lightest and most fuel efficient.
Undoubtedly, Honda’s strategy on price is based on localisation. It already produces body panels and engine parts including transmission cases, cylinder blocks, engine blocks and crankshafts at its Tapukara plant in Rajasthan. The facility will enable Honda to achieve further speedy localisation levels in the Amaze, as has been done with the Brio hatchback which has 90 percent local content.
Unlike the Dzire that dropped below four metres in January this year and has a sort of truncated look at the rear, the Amaze has a traditional three-box. Autocar India's review of the Amaze points out that the interiors are more spacious than the Dzire.
Indeed, the saloon draws on Honda’s M/M (man maximum, machine minimum) concept that Honda hopes will make it a favourite with the space-loving Indian car buyer. Honda will target middle-class customers aspiring for an upgrade to a saloon.
Given Honda's strong brand image, the Amaze is the car to look out for next year.India’s midsize car market accounts for about 25,000 units a month. The Amaze, apart from adding to choice, has the potential to increase the size of the midsize segment.
BRIAN DE SOUZA