TVS Motor, the Chennai-based two-wheeler and three-wheeler maker and the only one out of an earlier four that still makes mopeds, is reaping rich dividends. Despite its outdated styling, consumer demand for the product has been on an upswing this year, growing nine per cent, show data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.
Monthly sales of its 70cc two-wheeler have averaged slightly over 61,500 units this year, much higher than popular entry-level motorcycles such as Bajaj’s Discover100 (35,000 units), the Honda Dream series (37,000 units) and equally accepted scooters such as the Hero Maestro (38,000 units) or Honda Dio (14,000 units).
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Thr economy segment (100cc) of motorcycles and scooters costs at least Rs 37,000. At under Rs 30,000, the TVS Heavy Duty Super XL is the cheapest petrol powered two-wheeler in the country. Hero’s HF Dawn and the TVS Scooty are two of the closest rivals to the moped.
TVS is also busy developing high-end performance-oriented motorcycles, in cooperation with German bike giant BMW, slated for launch late next year. Yet, the Venu Srinivasan-led company has simultaneously expanded its moped sales. Current sales are more than double compared to seven years earlier.
Despite repeated attempts, the company, presently focusing on improving its share in the gearless scooter segment with the launch of a new Scooty Zest model, did not wish to speak on its moped. Srinivasan, the chairman and managing director, declined to comment when approached. The success of TVS’ mopeds is such that its moped sales are higher than those of all its scooters or motorcycles.
During the April-August period, slightly more than 307,000 mopeds were sold by TVS Motor as compared to 273,437 scooters and 273,630 motorcycles. “Mopeds are lauded for their weight-carrying and haulage abilities. They are lighter and are easy to manoeuvre in traffic. Which is why mopeds are attractive to goods delivery units in rural and semi-rural areas,” said a Mumbai-based automotive consultant. Though not so popular in the northern markets, they enjoy a significant fan base in the southern ones, followed by western markets.
The Firodia family-led Kinetic Motors and Kinetic Engineering, and Majestic Auto wrapped up their two-wheeler business some years earlier. All the three companies which competed against TVS in the moped space have since allowed the Chennai-based company a free run in the segment.
While none of the other two-wheeler manufacturers such as Bajaj Auto, Hero MotoCorp or Honda are keen on experimenting in this segment, they are planning to bring down their entry price levels to attract new customers. For instance, Hero MotorCorp, the country’s largest motorcycle maker, has announced its intention of launching a low-cost commuter bike, priced under Rs 30,000. Japanese two-wheeler giant Yamaha is working on a project to develop a small motorcycle for less than Rs 30,000. Both are expected to be powered by a 100-110cc engine.