An assembly line at the Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India plant in Tapukara, Rajasthan. Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Japanese automotive giant Honda’s Indian two-wheeler unit – Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India – is fast closing the gap with the second largest local motorcycle maker Bajaj Auto.

The latest data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers shows that Honda motorcycle sales jumped 23% to 1.46 million units in the nine months to the end of December, which was 9,571 units short of Bajaj’s 1.47 million units, the Economic Times reported.

Scooters have driven growth in India for Honda, with its Activa brand topping the charts, but the company has also built a large stake in the motorcycle market. Sales are expected to top two million for the financial year to the end of March, the daily said.

In the overall two-wheeler market, Honda continued to enjoy second position with a 29% market share in the April-to-December period.  Motorcycles account for a third of its two-wheeler sales.

This is mainly due to a strong demand for the Shine executive motorcycle, which is currently the third-largest selling motorcycle in the country, with growing volumes in the 150-180cc segment. Shine now accounts for almost half of Honda’s motorcycles sold in India.

The company commissioned its fourth assembly line at its largest plant in Narsapura, in Karnataka state last August. The factory in Narsapura has a capacity to manufacture 2.4 million units but it looks likely to face capacity constraints soon.

Honda also has factories at Manesar in Haryana, Tapukara in Rajasthan and Vithalpur in Gujarat.