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Doubles bout: It's Honda and Yamaha vs Hero and Bajaj

By R Jagannathan

The Japanese may be fierce competitors amongst themselves, but when it comes to dealing with the Gaijin - the non-Japanese - they hunt in packs.

Ever since Hero broke up with Honda - the last of the Indo-Japanese joint ventures to do the talaaq - the battle for the mobike market is essentially an India versus Japan title bout.

Currently Hero Motocorp dominates the 100 cc fuel-efficiency bike, and Bajaj Auto the 150 cc power segment with its Pulsar brand. As long as Hero and Honda were together, Honda was happy to take on Bajaj by building 150 cc bikes. Now it is aiming straight at the heart of the Hero empire by stepping down to 125 cc and 100 cc bikes.

Honda has already flung the gauntlet at Hero by launching the 110 cc Dream Yuga

Honda has already flung the gauntlet at Hero by launching the 110 cc Dream Yuga, and Keita Muramatsu has announced that fuel-efficiency is his goal. "If petrol costs go up by 10 percent, then our mileage should also go up by 10 percent. This is the challenge for Honda," he told the media. In an interview to BusinessLine on Tuesday, he said: "...we will consistently focus on higher capacity along with (higher) mileage. Our challenge is to reduce running expenses for motorcycle riders in the mass segment." This is Hero territory right now.

To be sure, he is going to get competition from Yamaha as well in this segment, but Yamaha is focusing on the other big boy - Bajaj Auto, which is topdog in the 150 cc segment. Hiroyuki Suzuki, Managing Director and CEO of Yamaha Motor in India, clearly told Business Standard that "our focus, as of now, is the 150 cc segment."

Hero and Bajaj had better watch out: the Japanese want to dethrone India's current bike champs in the fuel-efficient and power segments.

by R Jagannathan

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