OVER here in the west we have certain assumptions about the motorcycle industry – and one of them is that the biggest, most powerful bike firm in the world is Honda.
But in what's now the most important motorcycle market in the world, India, Honda is lagging well behind the firm that it helped establish, Hero.
Until late 2010, Hero Honda was a joint venture between the local Indian firm and Honda – allowing bikes to be made in India by an Indian-owned company, but with the technological clout of Honda. It was cheaper and easier than Honda setting up its own Indian arm and a great deal for Hero. But with the recession in the west and a biking boom in India, Honda and Hero split just over a year ago, with both firms eyeing the prize of dominating the massive Indian market.
Just how massive is that market? Well, Honda has just announced plans that in two years it's planning to make and sell 4 million bikes per year in India, and even then it won't be the biggest player. That's something it's hoping to become in 2020, when it reckons production in India will be 10 million per year!
For its part, Hero is virtually unknown outside India. One of the key elements of the Hero-Honda partnership was that while Honda wouldn't tread on Hero's toes in its home market, Hero wouldn't branch out to the rest of the world. Now, with that agreement long gone, there's a chance that Hero – the biggest bike firm in India – will start sending its products abroad. OK, so none of them are likely to tickle the fancy of western buyers, as most of their offerings are relatively primitive scooters in the 100-150cc segment, and the sheer size of the Indian and Asian bike markets is such that there would be little for Hero to gain by coming to the west, but even so it's an eye opener to see that somewhere in the 2-wheeled world Honda is far from being the top dog (yet).