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Harley, Triumph plan built-for-India mobikes

Swaraj Baggonkar  |  New Delhi 

Growth in the premium segment woos the two firms known for their iconic motorcycle models.

A superior growth in the premium segment of late has attracted the likes of American bike maker Harley Davidson and Triumph Motorcycle of the United Kingdom to India, prompting them to develop two-wheelers to suit the buyer’s pockets of the emerging economy.

Both companies, which are known for their iconic interstate cruisers, highway tourers and street-fast, high-engine capacity motorcycles, have now initiated plans to launch downsized models for the Indian market. They might retail this new (Indian) version in some of the other developing markets as well.

Ashish Joshi, managing director (India), Triumph Motorcycle, said the company has a six-year plan that defines the product strategy. “It (the plan) has got a few bikes. They are of a lower capacity...the development time is three years. Every premium bike manufacturer is looking downsizing their products. I would say looking at a future strategy perspective it may be on the cards,” he added.

Last Thursday, the 125-year-old British company launched seven models in the Indian market -- with prices starting at Rs 5.5 lakh. While four of the seven models would be assembled locally, the others would have to imported directly from the UK.

Cruiser-making company Harley-Davidson, too, is said to be working on an India-specific model. The launch looks due in the next few years.

Both have not disclosed the targeted price points of their planned models, but it is learnt they would be substantially cheaper than their current range. Honda, which has priced its 250cc bike at about Rs 1.5 lakh after almost fully localising the product in India, clocks more than 2,000 units a month in sales.

Harley offers as many as 15 bike models to the Indian consumer, with prices starting at Rs 5.5 lakh. Headquartered in Milwaukee (Wisconsin), it had only last year set up its first plant outside the United States -- that was at Bawal in Rewari district of Haryana. This allowed the company to reduce prices of two of its models that are assembled locally.

The two manufacturers are looking to downsize their engine and power to suit the Indian riding requirements and conditions. An engine having 300cc-550cc capacity may be on the cards. Locally procured parts will allow the to keep a check on the development cost of the vehicle.

Harley Davidson India is said to have provided market insights and consumer preferences to its global product development team. A low-cost product for the Indian consumer is the apt model for the company’s growing customer base here.

“The way the Indian market is headed -- with its people having better spendable income -- there will always be space for bigger bikes,” notes Triumph’s Joshi. “I believe the 250cc-500cc engine bikes will always sell in better numbers. The growth in the 180cc and above is outpacing the growth of the rest of the industry. So there is a clear shift in preference.”

The two companies, who are recent entrants into the Indian market, are battling for space against established players such as Hero Motocorp (formerly Hero Honda), Bajaj Auto, TVS Motors and Honda. All these leading are moving up the value chain, planning bigger capacity bike for the local market.

Triumph is working on setting up an assembly plant in India. It should be ready before the middle of this year. Its bikes go on sale in June across five dealerships. The plant would be assembling 5-10 bikes a day, while dealerships would increase to 10-14 by this year-end.

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First Published: Mon, January 09 2012. 01:22 IST