The Dark Truth Behind Hero-Honda Split: Reasons for Partnership Failure

Hero -Honda, a joint venture between Hero Group and Honda Motor Company, was one of the most successful two-wheeler manufacturers in India. The partnership began in 1984 and lasted for more than two decades before the companies decided to part ways in 2010. The split was a shock to the industry as Hero Honda was the largest two-wheeler manufacturer in India at the time. However, there were underlying issues that led to the partnership’s failure, and in this blog, we will delve into the dark truth behind the Hero-Honda split.

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The Hero-Honda Successful In The Indian Market

Hero Honda is a popular motorcycle brand that has been successful in the Indian market for several decades. The brand was formed in 1984 as a joint venture between Hero Cycles of India and Honda of Japan. The focus keyword for this success story is “joint venture.”

The joint venture between Hero and Honda was formed with the objective of manufacturing and selling motorcycles in India. The partnership combined Hero’s expertise in bicycles and Honda’s technological prowess in motorcycles. The first product launched by the joint venture was the CD100, which quickly became popular due to its fuel efficiency, low maintenance, and affordable price.

Over the years, Hero Honda continued to innovate and launch new models, each with its unique features and benefits. The company also focused on building a strong distribution and service network, which helped it reach customers in even the most remote parts of the country.

One of the most significant factors behind Hero Honda’s success was its ability to understand and cater to the needs of the Indian market. The company launched several models specifically designed for Indian roads and consumers, such as the Splendor, Passion, and Karizma.

Hero Honda’s success story is a testament to the power of collaboration and understanding local market dynamics. Today, Hero MotoCorp, the successor to Hero Honda, continues to be one of the leading motorcycle manufacturers in India.

Reasons for the Hero-Honda Split

Differences in Management Style

One of the primary reasons behind the Hero-Honda split was the differences in management style between Hero Group and Honda Motor Company. Hero Group was a family-run business, and the management was centralized, whereas Honda was a more democratic company, with decision-making powers distributed across various levels. This difference in management style led to conflicts and differences in the way the companies operated, and this, in turn, led to a breakdown in the partnership.

Branding and Marketing Strategies

Another significant factor that led to the partnership’s failure was differences in branding and marketing strategies. Honda wanted to promote its own brand in India, while Hero Group was keen on continuing with the Hero Honda brand. This led to disagreements and conflicts over branding and marketing, and ultimately, Honda decided to pull out of the joint venture.

Technical Collaboration

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Hero Honda’s success was largely due to its technical collaboration with Honda, which provided the Indian company with the necessary technology and expertise. However, over time, Hero Group started investing in its own research and development, and this led to a reduction in the company’s dependence on Honda. This, in turn, led to a power struggle between the two companies, with Honda feeling that its contribution to the partnership was no longer as significant.

Royalty Payments

Another major issue that led to the partnership’s failure was royalty payments. Hero Honda paid a royalty to Honda for the technology and expertise it provided. However, over time, the royalty payments became a bone of contention between the two companies, with Honda feeling that it was not being adequately compensated for its contributions. This led to a breakdown in negotiations, and ultimately, the partnership came to an end.

Change in Regulatory Environment

The Indian two-wheeler industry underwent significant changes in the years leading up to the Hero-Honda split. The introduction of emission norms and safety regulations put pressure on the industry to invest in new technologies and upgrade their products. This led to increased competition and cost pressures, and Hero Group felt that it could no longer afford to pay the high royalty fees charged by Honda. This, in turn, led to a breakdown in negotiations between the two companies.

Diverging Product Strategies

Hero Honda was known for its successful line of commuter motorcycles, which were reliable and fuel-efficient. However, Honda wanted to expand its product portfolio to include premium motorcycles and scooters. This led to disagreements between the two companies over product strategy, with Hero Group feeling that Honda’s focus on premium motorcycles was diluting the brand. This disagreement over product strategy contributed to the eventual split.

Conflict Over Export Strategy

Hero Honda had a successful domestic market, but the company was struggling to make inroads into international markets. Honda wanted to increase exports and make Hero Honda a more global brand, while Hero Group felt that the domestic market should remain the primary focus. This conflict over export strategy was another factor that led to the partnership’s failure.

Dispute over Joint Venture Agreement

The joint venture agreement between Hero Group and Honda Motor Company had several clauses related to technology transfer, intellectual property rights, and other issues. However, over time, there were disputes over the interpretation and implementation of these clauses. This led to legal battles and increased tensions between the two companies, eventually leading to the end of the partnership.

Differences in Corporate Culture

Apart from differences in management style, Hero Group and Honda Motor Company also had different corporate cultures. Hero Group was deeply rooted in Indian traditions and values, while Honda was a more global and cosmopolitan company. These differences in the corporate culture created communication and understanding gaps, which further strained the partnership.

Leadership Changes

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The leadership changes in both companies were also a factor that contributed to the partnership’s failure. In 2004, Brijmohan Lall Munjal, the founder of Hero Group, stepped down as the chairman of the company, and his sons took over the reins. At Honda, too, there were changes in leadership, with new executives taking over the helm. These changes in leadership led to a shift in priorities and strategies, which further complicated the partnership.


The Hero-Honda split was the result of several complex and interrelated issues, ranging from differences in management style and product strategy to disagreements over export and joint venture agreements. The split was a painful and challenging process for both companies, but it also paved the way for new opportunities and growth. Today, Hero Group and Honda Motor Company continue to thrive as independent companies, and their successes are a testament to their resilience and adaptability.

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