It looks like Honda will finally acknowledge the constraint of its petrol-only portfolio by launching a CNG variant of its once popular City sedan.
The Times of India reported that this launch could be timed for October during the festival season to compete with its rivals’ diesel models like Hyundai Verna, Skoda Rapid and Volkswagen Vento.
The report added that CNG kit and cylinder fitting for on-road cars will be done at dealerships, while the factory will also produce the CNG variant. It will be priced at about Rs 50,000-60,000 more than the current price of the City (starting at Rs 7.6lakh ex-Mumbai).
While a positive move by Honda, it also reeks of desperation from the Japanese auto giant. Honda is currently 8th in terms of the domestic market share. The City's sales has also waned in the recent past; it has sold just over 2,200 units per month in the current fiscal year. Honda's decline can be mainly attributed to its well-documented, flawed strategy of not offering a single diesel model in a market dominated by diesel cars.
Honda will hope that the City’s CNG variant will put up some challenge in this segment. But it will surely be limited as customer interest will be restricted by CNG’s limited availability and the performance downgrade that accompanies CNG variants. Ultimately, it seems like the only way back for Honda will be to introduce diesel engines in India.