- Displays new line during soft launch in Sheikhupura
Atlas Honda unveiled its electric scooter ‘BENLEY e’ during a ‘soft’ launch at its Sheikhupura factory on Tuesday, as the company makes it move towards the two-wheel EV segment in Pakistan.
Chief Officer of Motorcycle and Power Products at Atlas Honda Noriaki Abe said at the event that ‘BENLY e’ will be offered for test marketing while new products will be offered based on feedback.
Another industry source privy to the matter said Atlas Honda will not be selling its electric scooters to the general public initially.
“However, bikes will be commercially sold to organisations having large fleets of two wheelers like food delivery services and courier services etc. where the company has close interaction with customers and has an opportunity to understand their needs better,” the source said.
“It’s a new product and the company needs to develop a close understanding of the customer’s needs and challenges that may stem up while entering the electric bike market,” it added.
The source further said that unveiling the electric scooter shows the company’s intention to enter the electric bike market.
How does the market see Atlas Honda’s intent to enter the EV market?
A Honda dealer at Karachi’s busy Akbar Road said dealers are expecting that the company will take a year to make electric bikes available in the market.
“There are a lot of people inquiring about Honda’s electric bike,” said the dealer.
He added that the market was seeing an increase in the sale of electric bikes in recent times.
Two-wheel industry expert Sabir Sheikh says Atlas Honda entering the electric bikes business is a big push for the nascent industry.
“Atlas Honda presently commands over 80% of the two-wheel market in the country. They are undisputedly the biggest two-wheel player in the country. Therefore, their entry in the electric bikes arena gives the nascent industry a big push,” he said.
In 2022-23, Atlas Honda sold over 1 million motorcycles out of the total 1.18 million total two- and three-wheel unit sales – commanding 85% market share, according Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers Association (PAMA) data.
At the event, Saquib H. Shirazi, President and CEO of Atlas Honda, said the company has expanded its product line up and achieved localisation of up to 95%.
“The company developed the largest network of local auto parts manufacturers and dealers. With more than 10,000 touchpoints, the company has created direct employment opportunities for more than 150,000 people,” Shirazi was quoted as saying in a press release issued after the event.
Meanwhile, Sheikh said Chinese electric bikes are getting popular but Honda will be offering Japanese technology, which the market expects to be superior.
Sheikh, who is also Chairman Association of Pakistan Motorcycle Assemblers (APMA), expects Honda bikes may be priced more than double of its comparable competitor Chinese brand of electric bikes.
“A good Chinese electric bike is presently priced over Rs300,000. I am expecting Honda’s electric bike to be priced around Rs900,000, especially the one that has been displayed in Sheikhupura,” he said.
“There are now around 1,000 electric bikes being assembled in Pakistan a month. The dynamics are changing very fast. The number will go up to 4,000-5,000 by June 2024. I know people who have bought electric bikes. They are very happy because it is saving them up to Rs15,000 monthly on account of fuel,” Sheikh added.
Sheikh said buyers should buy motorcycles only from those companies that have a production facility to ensure after-sales support.
Meanwhile, he added that the second-hand market for electric bikes will be slower because the price of a battery has a huge pie – somewhere around 50% of the overall price.
“It’s good news that a major Atlas Honda is testing waters with its electric scooter test run. Their experience will be very beneficial for the EV market,” said Dr Aazir Anwar Khan, founder and Director Integrated Engineering Centre of Excellence (IECE), University of Lahore.
He added that Atlas Honda has the muscle and brand recognition to convince people and adapt to EVs.
He said that going forward, if Honda manufactures some 50,000-100,000 electric scooters in the country, it will be a major step towards achieving the target of 30% electrification of motorcycles by 2030.
Khan said the price point will be the biggest challenge for the company.
“If the price is very high, the market for its electric scooter will be very small. Two-wheel is a very price sensitive segment.”