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Monday, May 4, 2015

Splendor iSmart launch ~ Honda / Hero MotoCorp spat over 'fuel efficiency'

Hero MotoCorp, on Thursday, launched its all-new Splendor iSmart bike, equipped with stop-and-start i3S technology, priced at Rs.47,250 (ex-showroom Delhi). Splendor iSmart aims at further consolidating the company’s leadership position in the 100cc segment, Hero MotoCorp said in a statement. The i3S technology automatically shuts the engine when idling, and turns it on when needed by pressing the clutch.  The 97.2 cc vehicle has aircooled 4 stroke Single Cylinder OHC – power 6.15 KW (8.36 Ps) @ 8000 rpm; DC - Digital CDI ignition.  The company also unveiled the new 250cc sports bike HX 250R and hybrid scooter Leap along with new scooters such as the 150cc Zir in two variants, 125cc Dare and the 110cc scooter Dash.

There was a time when Indian two-wheeler segment was all about  : Lambretta (Lamby) Vijay, Bajaj scooters – Jawa (Yezdi), Bullet, Rajdoot  -  and something like Explorer, Silverplus,  Suvega, Luna, TVS 50 then entered 100cc bikes – touting fuel consumption as USP – the Hero Honda campaign - ‘fill it – shut it – forget it’ – was so popular.  Remember that when India beat Pak at Chepauk in 1980, man of the Match Kapil Dev was presented ‘Enfield Bullet’ motorcycle ~ majestic Kapil on Bullet was a picture that caught the imagination of millions of cricket lovers.   In those days, every street you could find an automobile mechanic – vehicle regularly had starting trouble, cables got cut – replacement of cables, cleaning of carburettor, cleaning and correcting the gap in spark-plug were the regular jobs for mechanics. 

Recently,  Hero Moto Corp, the world's No. 1 two-wheeler manufacturer by volumes,  roped in Tiger Woods as its brand ambassador in a four-year deal pegged at Rs 200 crore, making it the most expensive celebrity endorsement yet for an Indian company.   Hero Moto vice-chairman Pawan Munjal made the surprise announcement before Indian journalists gathered in Orlando, US, stating that  "Tiger Woods is one of the biggest global icons and not just a sports celebrity. His appeal cuts across geographies, nationalities, age and gender and therefore, he is the best brand fit to be our 'Global Corporate Partner' as we go global."

Away in UK, Telegraph reported that  - Motorists are having to spend up to £300 more each year to fill up their car because of the huge gulf between the fuel economy claims made by motor manufacturers - and actual petrol consumption on the road.  A survey  said the fuel efficiency claims of car giants such as Vauxhall, Ford and Peugeot were miles apart from reality.  Most of other vehicle manufacturers too would be in line with this.  They survey further claimed that of diesel models -  "green" models were among the biggest culprits for overstating their efficiency   !

Back home, Japanese auto maker Honda has questioned its erstwhile Indian partner Hero’s claim of 102.5 km/litre fuel economy rate for Splendor iSmart bike, saying “such claims are misleading and are far from reality”.  Hero MotoCorp on its part hit back saying its fuel efficiency values were certified by iCAT (International Centre for Automotive Technology), a government authorised agency, and “challenging these test results” mean “questioning the standards and regulations established by the Government of India, and in turn, the law of the land in our country”.

Questioning Hero’s claims, Honda R&D Center India (HRID) President and CEO Keiji Kasa told PTI: “We only want to say one thing; such claims are misleading and are far from reality. Since the base engine in question has been developed by Honda, we do understand its realistic assessment on performance and capabilities.” He further said the claimed fuel economy cannot be maintained or sustained even within a completely controlled environment.  Hero MotoCorp spokesperson said through its in-house R&D capabilities, the company has been able to improve mileage by various techniques, including reducing kerb weight of vehicle, upgrading and optimising engines, adopting lean burn technology, and coupling them with the “Idle Start Stop System which switches off the engine in Idle and automatically starts the engine by pressing the clutch”. “All these improvements brought by Hero could improve the mileage phenomenally,” the spokesperson added.

Hero Honda ruled the Indian market for a couple of decades – in 2010, Munjals-promoted Hero Group and Honda  agreed to end their 26-year-old relationship, with the Indian partner agreeing to buy out the latter’s 26 per cent stake in erstwhile joint venture Hero Honda for Rs. 3,841.83 crore.  The Hero Group and Honda held 26 per cent  each, in Hero Honda that started operations in 1984 to become the world’s largest two-wheeler maker.

Every vehicle owner knows for sure and is better-off by experience that whatever is promised is  under ‘test conditions’ and in reality things are far different irrespective of the brand and class !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

4th May 2015.

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