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Honda’s $810 Motorcycle Goes on Sale in India

At $11,760, Honda’s CB1000R may seem pricey—until you adjust for inflation. A 1970 CB750 would have run you $1,500, which is about $9,000 in 2012 dollars—not much less than the CB1000R, and it’s heavier, less reliable and a lot slower. So how much performance can you expect out of a bike that would have cost $140 in 1970 dollars—a time when the average wage was $3 an hour?

Meet Honda Motorcycle India’s  Dream Yuga, which at 44,642 Indian Rupees has got to be the cheapest Honda ever built, correcting for inflation. That’s about $810, not much more money than even the shoddiest 50cc scooter from the most fly-by-night scooter importer in the USA. As you would expect, it’s a simple machine, with a 109cc air-cooled, carbureted, four-stroke single, good for 8.5 horsepower, but it still has motorcycle styling, a small windscreen, electric start and a real clutch and gearbox. Honda claims a staggering 170 mpg (72 kilometers per liter). Basic transportation at an affordable price point—just what a developing economy demands.

Honda Motorcycles and Scooters, India (HMSI) seems to be working feverishly to catch up to its old business partner, Hero Motors. That’s because Honda Motors (which wholly owns HMSI) and Hero’s joint venture ended recently after 27 years. The Dream Yuga is HMSI’s first foray into the low-cost commuter market, competing with even cheaper products like Hero’s $770 Splendor NXG or Bajaj Auto’s Passion Pro.

So what’s at stake? A market that’s orders of magnitude larger than the USA’s. According to the Wall Street Journal, motorcycle and scooter sales in India grew 14 percent in 2011 to 13.44 million units; 30 times the USA’s 2011 numbers of 440,000 reported by the Motorcycle Industry Council. Hero dominates that vast market with 6 million units sold, and Bajaj sold 2.5 million, but HMSI passed 2 million units and is coming up fast. The company operates two factories in India now, with a capacity of 2.8 million units, but a third factory—with an initial capacity of 1.2 million vehicles—will begin operation next year.

So why should we care? We’ll never see a bike that cheap from American Honda, true. But if you’re wondering why Honda seems to not be putting the effort into selling bikes to you and me like it did in the old days—when there were a myriad of models in each category, not just a few—think of the relative profitability  of the two markets. Would you rather make three million nickels or 100,000 dimes? If you’re waiting for the old days to return, don’t hold your breath.

51 Comments

  1. Joe Winters says:

    The old school Honda Civic with 2 wheels… And there’s nothing wrong with that Americans.

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  2. Joe Winters says:

    Small engine, plain, low power, but great gas milage with an even better price. Honda’s done this before and people laughed at the original Honda Civic too. We’re so American…

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  3. Pedro J Diaz says:

    Bring it to the US. It will introduce people to Honda that otherwise would not have the money.
    Riding a small displacement bike is a blast. My 1977 Honda C125S is such a change from my liter bikes. I can smell the air, look at the scenery, a nice change of pace.

    Put some nobbies on it, and make it a cheap dirt bike. I’d get one to flog around a trail.

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  4. Z1 says:

    Whatever the emission level of this bike is, it has to be better than one of those horrible smoking 2-strokes that are so prevalent there…or for that matter a clapped-out, smoking 4-stroke. Perhaps this attractive retail price will induce some of the owners of these old bikes to upgrade themselves to this bike. Yes, it’s not as clean as an injected bike would be, but a big reduction in pollution over what they were riding.

    Of course the next question is, what will happen to their old bike that they traded in? Without some kind of a “cash for clunkers” program (that I doubt exists there) it may be sold to some guy who is now riding a bicycle, and wants to upgrade himself to motorized transportation.

    If this new low-cost motorbike works for Honda in this market, I wonder if a $2,995 Fit (or Fit-type vehicle) may not be far behind, for this market.

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  5. RedFZ1 says:

    Quote:”If you’re waiting for the old days to return, don’t hold your breath.”
    Indeed. The days of a modern CBX are long gone. All we get now are teaser concept bikes that make you reach for your wallet and when reality hits put it back. Shame that.

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  6. DannyG says:

    I like it and if things keep going the way they have been for the last 5 years in the U.S., there will be a market for this bike here. My first street-legal motorcycle was a 1975 Yamaha DT100. I purchased it new, OTD with tax tag and title for $550. It was all a 16 year old needed to get to school and work back then.

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  7. mickey says:

    Heck that’s twice the motorcycle my first bike was (1965 M50…Italian 50cc Aermachi branded by Harley Davidson). It had drum brakes. No issues stopping even as crazy as I rode it. I wanted a Honda C110 50cc sport but my dad was a Harley riding WW2 vet and wouldn’t let me have a Japanese bike. When I turned 18 I got a Honda CL 77 305 Scrambler. It also had drum brakes. Heck my 2000 Honda 750 Nighthawk still has a drum rear brake.

    At $810 and 170 mpg I’d probably buy one of those just for fun if it were available here. Heck I just spent 1/3 of that on TWO TIRES for my Honda ST 1300.

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  8. mark says:

    I think it looks pretty cool. My first bike MANY years ago was a Honda SL 100. It cost me $400 new. It got me to school, work, and out on the trails. It was a blast. You don’t have to have a big expensive bike to have fun with one.

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    • Gary says:

      Back then an SL100 was the bee’s knees. I used to race against ‘em on my 60cc Yamaha. These days, not so much. I hear where you’re coming from but I’d still put the money toward something else … prolly used, with low miles. Something with at least a single disc on the front.

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  9. GT1964 says:

    By looking at the pic & reading the 170mpg I thought this has to be fuel injected. Upon re-reading, it in fact says it is carbureted. Must be weed eater style carb, as I see no float bowl. Has anyone got the skinny on this?

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  10. Gary says:

    There is nothing more pretentious than a 100cc four-stroke with a bikini fair. Sorry, but I would not hit my dog in the butt with that thing. If you ever see me riding one, just shoot me. Put me out of my misery.

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  11. Don says:

    I was going to mention that my mountain bike has a burlier front fork than this motorcycle. Then I realized my fork retails for more than the whole bike too… Pretty good job by Honda to get a bike like this to this price point.

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  12. Denny says:

    What makes me wonder is where are chinese motorcycles; this particular one due to its ‘creative’ styling looks very Chinese (this must be asiatic taste in general). Are they not as popular in India, or they do not measure up to original?

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    • Random says:

      India’s Styling preferences are actually very different from China’s. In India bikes have a “sport” inspiration, with many angles and edges. Chinese riders don’t seem to care very much about styling, as long as the bike takes them to work, and their bikes have graphics that are a little strange or old-school for western tastes, with lightning bolts, dragons or stripes added.

      India taxes heavily foreign imports, that’s one reason why Honda and other brands manufactors locally. That’s a good reason why Chinese bikes may not be so common there.

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  13. Todd says:

    People say these wouldn’t sell in the good ole’ USA…but I don’t know. I’ve seen a number of teenagers taking bicycles and strapping Chinese ICE motors onto them. I’ve got to think a $400. bicycle and a $200. motor is getting so close to $800. Maybe younger people would be interested in motorcycles again in America if they weren’t so expensive.

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  14. MGNorge says:

    I would have killed for one of these as a kid! My first bike, a used CT200, cost more! I sure hope the NA market wakes up so that we can at least see some of the old Honda again. Someday?

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  15. MxPhlipper says:

    What’s shipping cost from India to US???

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  16. Todd says:

    I bet they will still have a blast riding the Dream Yuga in India. I wonder if there is going to be any aftermarket parts for the bike. A Two Brothers slip on might really bring the bike to life.

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  17. Harvey Mushman says:

    For their latest fiscal year, Honda sold ~200,000 motorcycles in North America and 9.1 million in Asia: that’s ~45x as many. They made ~6x the profit on their motorcycle sales in Asia as they did in N.A.

    In India, Honda prices the 250CBR around $2700US. In the USA, they price the same bike at $4100US.
    In India, Honda prices the Aviator scooter around $860US. In the USA, they price their Elite, the same basic machine with some detail differences, at $3000US.

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  18. Norm G. says:

    honda MB5 for the 21st century anyone…?

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  19. Larry says:

    BikerRandy, with all due respect to your advanced years, you may be confusing the Honda 750 price with the Mach III Kawasaki at $995, also in 1969. I was there too.

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  20. bikerrandy says:

    Gabe when the CB750s first came out in `69 they cost $995 MSRP. How did you jump from that to $1,500 in 1970? I was there. Doubt you had been born yet then.

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  21. Tim says:

    Well, to compare Indian and US prices fairly, you’d have to adjust those $810 up by the factor of 10 (that is how much LESS money an average Indian worker is making). That would be $8100. Not cheap, for a 100cc bike!
    “cheap” is a relative thing. We, americans, tend to forget that.

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  22. Gutterslob says:

    These markets do have the potential to provide a lot of revenue for Honda. A portion of that revenue, in turn, will go towards R&D and engineering of higher-end models like future CBR1000s and 600s. Older Honda halo models were developed with the funds obtained from the sales of their cubs/mopeds, I would think.

    There’s also the competition from Chinese and Indian companies for Honda (and other Japanese manufacturers) to worry about. They’ve seen how Chinese manufacturers have monopolized the budget end of the Chinese market and don’t want to lose further ground in India.

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  23. Bob Krzeszkiewiz says:

    How is it possible to produce (and sell with a profit) any kind of a motorcycle even in India? I paid a bit over $1000 for a Polini pocket bike 12 years ago (Which had 3.5 more HP than this Honda). Is India using all the foreign aid money it receives from other nations to subsidize bike purchases for their people?

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    • Gabe says:

      My guess: lots of Chinese-built parts, very old basic design that’s amortized itself a million times over, robots doing the most skilled stuff (like welding and machining) and massive demand for products like this.

      It’s possible the Indian government also has tax breaks that favor local manufacturers–I know there are steep tariffs on imported goods.

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    • Gary says:

      My guess is that it is assembled in India.

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    • HalfBaked says:

      I don’t think the US (or any other country) regulates how the aid money is used so who knows maybe that’s exactly what they are doing! Reminds me of the old sayiny, “it’d be funny if it wasn’t true”.

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      • Gabe says:

        You can go to the USAID and other websites and see that the USA allocated $40 million in foreign aid to India in 2010 (up from $28 million in 2009) and every penny of it goes to specific programs, none of which are subsidizing motorbikes.

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    • Dave says:

      It’s very cheap to manufacture in India. The market size is 13x that of the US so volume is WAY high (also drives unit cost down). I think the Honda CBR250 and some of the small KTM’s are India made. Imagine what kind of profit they’re pulling down @$4k+.

  24. Bud says:

    When I first looked at it I thought to myself “Where’s the front brake?”

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