Big Red knows a thing or two about two-wheelers; it has been the world’s largest manufacturer of two-wheelers for nearly sixty years now. It began making motorised bicycles in postwar Japan under founder Soichiro Honda in a space that would qualify as small even by Mumbai’s standards. Those engines, by the by, were 50cc radio generator engines that were modified to be able to power the bicycles. It is only fitting, then, that Honda’s largest-selling two-wheeler is the Cub, whose primary engine is a 50cc one. The first motorcycle to be entirely made by Honda was made in 1949, and had a familiar name – ‘Dream’.
Honda’s two-wheeled relationship with India is also a long, storied one. The highest-selling two-wheeler in the market in history has been the Splendor, and for over two decades it was a result of Honda engineering. After the split with Hero MotoCorp, the Japanese company bet big on their geared scooter, Eterno, which was a modern interpretation of the enormously popular Bajaj Chetak. The Activa, a gearless scooter, was also developed to fill in the gaps, and much to Honda’s surprise, it was the latter that started driving sales.
Today, the Activa jostles for position as the highest-selling model overall, and drives the growth in the fastest-growing segment of the fastest-growing two-wheeler market in the world. The Activa model range has received a comprehensive update only one in its lifetime, because Honda has wisely chosen to not fix what isn’t broke. A recent encouraging sign from the manufacturer has been the launch of the Navi, a quirky monkey bike/scooter hybrid that is based on the Activa but has a personality that is completely the opposite.