Honda Activa outsells the Hero MotoCorp Splendor in September


In a remarkable run of sorts and one that has upset the apple cart of motorcycles, the Honda Activa range of automatic scooters has unseated the Hero MotoCorp Splendor in terms of September 2013 sales. According to the EconomicTimes, Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India (HMSI) sold 141,996 units of the Honda Activa range of automatic scooters in India during September 2013, compared with 124, 217 units of the Hero MotoCorp Splendor commuter motorcycle range, in the same period. 

The spike in the Honda Activa's sales growth, at 35% (September '12 vs September '13), is also higher than that of the Hero Splendor, which managed to clock 31%. These figures, if sustained for a longer period of time, would mean that scooters are making a huge comeback after nearly 2 decades. Geared scooters, dominated by Bajaj's Chetak range, were displaced by more efficient four stroke commuter motorcycles built by Hero MotoCorp (then Hero Honda) in the 1990s. 

Two wheeler buyers shifted from two stroke engined geared scooters, which always brought in a higher utility value, to four stroke 100 cc motorcycles led by the Hero Splendor, which promised higher fuel efficiency. This change in buyer preference meant that Bajaj Auto, a dominant force in the Indian two wheeler market between the 1970s and 1990s, was edged out by the then-Hero Honda, in dramatic fashion. 

It wasn't until the noughties before scooters were back in favour, this time in automatic guise. Led by the Honda Activa, which single-handedly continues to propel sales of four stroke automatic scooters, the automatic scooter is now a staple of many urban households, for the sheer convenience and utility it offers. Although automatic scooters are less efficient than 100 cc, four stroke commuter motorcycles, growing incomes in urban India has meant that utility angle is taking precedence over outright economy. 

Also, automatic scooters, which are simpler to ride due to the absence of a manual gear/clutch, can be ridden by multiple members of a family, unlike the male-centric design of the motorcycle. A flat seat and higher storage space on an automatic scooter are other factors that give them a utility bent. With India urbanizing at a rapid clip, automatic scooters can only gain in acceptance, and this has prompted two wheeler makers such as Honda, Suzuki, TVS Motors, Hero MotoCorp and Yamaha, to bet big on this segment.

Scooter makers are looking at a host of ways to boost fuel efficiency of automatic scooter. While Honda recently introduced Honda Engine Technology (HET) on all its automatic scooters by adopting low friction engines parts and other fuel efficiency boosting methods, Hero MotoCorp and TVS Motors are working on bringing hybrid scooter options into the market. Electric scooters are also gaining acceptance for shorter commutes across many Indian cities.

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