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KTM readies next-gen bikes with Bajaj

Swaraj Baggonkar  |  Mumbai 

The 125 Duke bike

After the initial success of the mini street motorcycle produced at Pune but sold in Europe, KTM Power Sports AG, one of Europe's largest bike producers, has charted a series of new product developments with its India partner, Bajaj Auto.

The Austria-based two-wheeler major is developing a high-capacity motorcycle in partnership with Bajaj Auto, India's second-biggest two-wheeler producer, in addition to more platforms for newer models for the future.

Engineers of KTM and Bajaj are developing a motorcycle powered by a 375cc engine at Bajaj's research and development center at Akurdi, Pune. This model could have one of the biggest engine capacities fully produced in India after the Royal Enfield models.

A small capacity motorcycle, the 125 Duke, produced by Bajaj Auto and sold by KTM in Europe, has been a runaway success, pushing unit sales and revenue of the European company higher than last year. Pune-based Bajaj Auto, which holds a little more than 47 per cent in the foreign company, manufactures the 125 Duke at its plant in Chakan, Pune.

Besides, KTM is working with Bajaj on two vehicle platforms for the future. The work on these started last year. It is, however, not clear what models would be developed on these platforms. Both had jointly developed the platform for the 125 Duke more than a year before.

Bajaj progressively replaced the 125cc engine on it with a 200cc engine and launched the same in India in January, pricing it at Rs 1.17 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). KTM expects to sell 20,000 units of it in India.

In what could be a first for the Indian market in recent times, KTM and Bajaj are working on a twin-cylinder engine platform that could subsequently make it to actual production at a later date. Such motorcycles are priced at a substantial premium to other commuter bikes.

While all motorcycles fully produced in India are powered by single-engine technology, twin-cylinder engines would give the motorcycle additional power and greater performance. Though, mileage figures would be an issue with such high capacity premium bikes.

About two decades earlier, twin-cylinder bikes were sold in the country on a bigger scale. But with subsequent invasion of cheap and fuel-efficient bikes from the Japanese giants, these bikes made a quiet exit. India has been witnessing a marked shift in preference to performance-driven bikes from economy-driven bikes.

In addition to Bajaj-KTM, other manufacturers such as Honda, Hero MotoCorp, Royal Enfield and Suzuki are also studying the possibility of introducing twin-cylinder bikes in India.

Apart from launching products under the KTM brand, which are sold in India through Bajaj Auto dealerships, Bajaj will utilise the jointly developed technology in its own brands, such as the Pulsar and Discover.

Bajaj's newest product (yet to go on sale), the Pulsar 200NS, uses the same platform and engine as the Duke 200. Newer and bigger Pulsars from Bajaj, due to be launched next year, will share technologies with KTM models.

In its annual report, KTM states, "Together with Bajaj, KTM is consistently working on implementing a global product strategy.

We have already developed new small-engine street motorcycles in response to the rising demand for small, agile bikes for the urban area."

Bajaj Auto managing director Rajiv Bajaj is on the supervisory board of KTM Power Sports AG. Both are actively looking at Asian countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, for joint expansion and common distribution.

"In future, we would in particular like to attract customers in the emerging markets with this new product, since they will represent one of the most important growth drivers of KTM in the next few years,” the report added.

First Published: Mon, May 07 2012. 00:38 IST