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17 years after it was first launched, the Honda Activa still rules the roost. The Japanese manufacturer has sold over 1 crore of these ubiquitous scoots. You see them everywhere in the country, ridden by everyone! From college goers to middle-aged office going men and women, to parents dropping off their kids, to the young punks with more stickers on their bikes than athletes at the Olympics! 17 years is a very long time to be at the top and the Activa is surpassed only by the unbelievable Hero Splendor, but that is a story for another day!
In 2000, Honda launched the Activa, a scooter in a market where there were a bunch of naysayers. Bajaj the scooter leader was looking to get out of the ever shrinking segment. Sales of motorcycles were going up, while scooters were plummeting. Yet Honda focussed on the Activa and its geared sibling the Eterno. The Eterno with its 150cc engine, flat footboard and gears should have been the automatic choice for the junta having ridden the Bajaj scooters for decades. For a multitude of reasons, the sales of Eternos dropped while the fortunes of the Activa was on a continuous rise.
Honda had correctly gauged the Indian market and by bringing an automatic scooter with decent fuel efficiency, it was poised to capture the imagination of the commuter who desired convenience along with low costs. For the urban environment, few vehicles can match the convenience of a scooter. Honda added to that the legendary reliability of the brand, good fuel efficiency, and low maintenance costs. Little wonder then, that these bikes sold like hot cakes!
Even today, you can easily find 15+year old vehicles running around without protest. These kinds of vehicles attract many owners who have neither inkling nor interest in spending time and money on servicing the scoot. Yet this workhorse will putter along, doing everything that is thrown at it and then some more. Today, when a person wants to buy a scooter, the first vehicle which comes to mind is the Activa. Everybody and their grandfathers seem to have one in the family! Yahoo and Bing are internet search engines as well, yet everyone will tell you to ‘Google it!’ The Activa is very close to reaching that status. There is competition, but it’s so far behind, that it just doesn’t matter.
The success of the Activa did not see Honda sitting on their laurels, the bike has been regularly updated, especially with Suzuki and TVS keen to make inroads in this segment. Currently, Honda has three versions for sale in India. The Activa 4G, which promises to be faster than your 3G smartphone? The Activa-I, which might have a touch of narcissism to it! And the Activa 125, because a 15cc bump will make the world of difference. As Honda would hope, you can buy any scooter you want, as long as it is an Activa!
The Activa will never have a cult following, where leather-clad bikers boast about their exploits. What it will have our thousands of people riding their scoots every day, without ever giving a moment’s thought to the feat of this bike. But then a workhorse will always have a thankless job!