By on February 25, 2013

The Honda CR-V might be a major success in Europe and America, but in India, it performs very poorly, selling in double digit numbers every month. Since the time of launch, Honda has sold 13,739 units of the CR-V in India. Honda launched the CR-V here ten years ago in 2003, and it still isn’t in the groove. India is  d-d-d-diesel dominated, and SUVs and crossovers better be diesel or they are d-d-d-destined for d-d-doom. BMW recently launched its facelifted X1 in India, offering it with a diesel engine only. Yes, heresy, d-d-dat’s right.

Fuel prices have headed northwards in the past few years, and the shift towards diesel cars started in 2007, when many companies brought in modern diesel engines to the country. While all car makers were busy churning out diesel powered cars, Honda was adamant, saying their diesel engines won’t work with Indian fuel quality. Their market share d-d-d-dropped d-d-d-d-drastically. Now finally they are accepting the shift in d-d-d-demand. Honda brings diesel powered small cars to India. But still no diesel CR-V.

Honda has instead chosen to offer 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre petrol engines on the CR-V in India. Honda already sells the CR-V in Europe with a 1.6-litre diesel engine. However they don’t plan to bring it to India, blaming diesel quality. What this has resulted in, is poor sales for a very capable car. Indians have never heard of the SsangYong brand earlier. Mahindra (the new owners of this Korean company) launched the Rexton W in India. And guess what? The Rexton sells ten times more than the CR-V, simply because its armed with a diesel engine. When will Honda learn?

Faisal Ali Khan is the editor of MotorBeam.com, a website covering the automobile industry of India.

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24 Comments on “Honda Took The Wrong D-D-D-Direction With The CR-V In India...”


  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Diesel quality in other countries is more serious then you might think.

    Back in college I took a part time job cleaning up turbochargers between classes. We’re talking turbochargers off of trains, ships, stuff the size of a Ford Fiesta. They were shipped to us from all over the world, and you could tell the ones that came from places like Africa and other 2nd-3rd world countries. Mush of the castings would be eaten up badly compared to those from Europe and here.

    I guarantee that those BMW X1′s are not going to last anywhere near what they do in developed countries.

    • 0 avatar
      Onus

      Why don’t they use old style developed world diesel injection technology.

      Like the old stanadyne db2 and db4 injection pumps. Originally made in the 40′s. I can’t imagine developed world diesel was that good then either.

      Though it does sorta explain why my Russian friends don’t have diesel cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        Probably Honda wouldn’t want to redesign the whole engine for these conditions. The modern approach to diesel emission control requires common-rail injection, which is incompatible with traditional injection pumps like that Stanadyne. Not using common-rail means the engine and the control electronics would have to be completely redesigned.

        The BMW uses common-rail injection, too, so either Honda is wrong or BMW is wrong. Or perhaps they’re both right but consumers don’t expect 400,000 km out of their vehicles in the Indian market.

        VW has been having troubles with common-rail injection in the North American market, nevermind India!

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Because the old-style technology won’t meet current emission standards for other markets. In today’s global economy, companies want to make products that can be sold in as broad a market as possible. It doesn’t pencil out for them to keep a separate engine plant open making legacy equipment that can only be sold in developing countries.

        From a purely pragmatic standpoint, I completely agree with you though!

      • 0 avatar
        AMC_CJ

        The fuel is more corrosive. The soot from the engine, going through the turbo, and back though the engine itself via-EGR would get eaten up. I want to say it’s the sulfur, but whatever it is, you take a Turbocharger from Africa, and one from North America, and the African ones were all pitted up and sometimes cracked more often.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Agreed. We have low-sulfur diesel here, which is probably not as good as the diesel in Europe. In India, it’s a whole different story.

      That said, the price differential between diesel and gas, er, um, petrol has shrunk greatly over the last 20 years. Petrol used to be about 3X the cost of diesel back in the day, but now the price is much closer — maybe 70 rupees/L for petrol vs. 50 for diesel (and about 40 for CNG, which is probably why all the Delhi taxies run on CNG, in addition to emissions regulations).

      Brian P also makes a great point that Indian consumers probably don’t expect 400,000 km out of their cars yet.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The problem with US diesel isn’t the sulfur content anymore, it is the biodiesel component that is killing VW warranties.

        • 0 avatar
          Brian P

          Biodiesel in low quantities seen in retail US diesel fuel is not at fault with the HPFP failures as long as the fuel is within specs, VW have stated this themselves.

          Part of the issue is the lack of lubricity in US diesel fuel, which is not up to the specifications given in the rest of the world (including Canada).

          The other part of the issue is that the Bosch CP4.1 common-rail injection pump is a poor design with inherent design flaws – and this pump is used in a variety of automotive diesels of European and American origin including GM, Ford, BMW, Mercedes, VW.

          It’s worth noting, though, that the Japanese manufacturers are more likely to use Denso equipment rather than Bosch, and the Denso high-pressure pump is a very different design from that of the Bosch CP4 series. It’s more like the Bosch CP3, which anecdotally seems to be a more robust design. Mazda is using Denso, I don’t know what Honda is using.

          • 0 avatar
            PCP

            The 2.2l uses a classic Bosch CP3. Don’t know about the new 1.6l – certainly not a CP3, though. The CP3 id obviously quite heavy duty – it even survived me putting gasoline instead of diesel and driving until it wouldn’t go any further…

            Cloaked up EGR-Valves is a problem even here in Switzerland, where Diesel is supposedly of a very high quality. Of course, feeding exhaust gases to the intake is not a very good idea from the start…

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    The same excuse is also used as an explanation for the lack of diesel-engined passenger vehicles here in Indonesia. I wonder which one of our diesel fuels are worse, the Indian diesel fuel or the Indonesian’s. But our ‘standard’ diesel (there are premium priced diesel fuel that sells for a considerable premium, as much as twice the cost, and limited in availability) is indeed very poor, and quite cheap. But don’t expect a modern diesel to last very long when fueled with that! Your fancy BMW X1 diesel would spew black smoke like an old bus or trucks before very long.

  • avatar
    goacom

    I’m not too sure if I’d buy Honda’s argument. Millions of DI diesel engine powered cars have been sold in India over the past decade, with no major issues cropping up. Maruti itself sells hundreds of thousands Fiat powered multi-jet diesels per year.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Honda is stubbornly anti diesel in some markets and being so stubborn hurts them globally.

    GM is not so stubborn, at least not in India. 2.2L diesel engine in Chevrolet Captiva.

  • avatar
    itsfred

    Call me touchy or oversensitive if you want, but I can’t read this article without feeling that it’s a gratuitous swipe at people, such as myself, afflicted with stuttering or stammering. I tried, but I could not find any other reason for the not-so-clever rhetorical device of adding all those D’s. Lame!

  • avatar

    I’ll tell you that the lack of a diesel CR-V in India isn’t out of stubbornness. Either the bean-counters have determined that it isn’t worth the development costs–because diesel-quality truly *does* vary between regions–or they’re just not interested. Either way, I’m sure they’d oblige if they wanted to.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    As far as I know Honda has resisted Diesels all together. I believe they only made their first one a few years ago. That philosophy was completely un-notised in the US and treated with indifference or mild supprise in the rest of the world. I did not realize that India was a “diesel” market but it makes sense that Honda would struggle there.

    • 0 avatar
      PCP

      It definitely took Honda too long to develop Diesel engines, but then their 2.2l (2005 ?) was engine of the year and the new 1.6l seems even better. So I guess they should be out of (lame) excuses now.

      • 0 avatar
        spreadsheet monkey

        Yes the 2.2 diesel came out in 2005. Here in the UK, the engine quickly got a poor reputation for rapid oil consumption and premature clutch/DMF failure, nothing that can be blamed on fuel quality and in sharp contrast to the excellent reputation of its petrol engines. Maybe Honda just doesn’t think this engine is durable enough for India?

        • 0 avatar

          However Honda has stated it is going all out with diesel cars in Australia. The CR-V and Civic hatchback are getting diesels there soon.

        • 0 avatar
          PCP

          That certainly doesn’t account to me, then. 200’000km, first clutch, no major problems and still running strong. No measurable oil consumption (I change it myself, every 25’000+km only!). And the dealerships I talked to all reported the same. Only problems were a cloaked up EGR valve and a loose nut – on the high pressure diesel pump drive shaft, though. No damage, but quite some work to change the shaft.


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