Some news reports brought in cheer for me in the last couple of months. India overtook China as the world’s largest two-wheeler market with over 17 million units sold. Sure China is selling more cars these days and there are restrictions on IC engine two-wheelers inside city limits, but hey, we are number one and I will say cheers to that. Better still, levies on imported motorcycles will come down by around 25 per cent making big capacity bikes cheaper to buy. Double cheers for that.
The growth of the scooter segment in India is being driven by more women opting for the freedom and mobility of two-wheelers. Sure they prefer non-geared scooters but the numbers are so big that 30 per cent of Honda’s total volume is made up of scooters. Let’s clink our glasses for that too! Now before you stop reading, let me try and read between the lines. India is made up of largely 100-150cc bikes and scooters. Big players like Hero, Honda and Bajaj churn out millions of them and our small towns and big villages are lapping them up. This causes a problem – even if these manufacturers are rich, they wouldn’t want to develop bigger capacity motorcycles since it does not make sense in a highly price-sensitive market. In short they would love to expand this segment made up of ‘cheap to buy and run two-wheelers’.
“Even if these manufacturers are rich, they wouldn’t want to develop bigger capacity motorcycles since it does not make sense in a highly price-sensitive market.”
That brings in the question of replacement market. Royal Enfield has been enjoying a field day selling motorcycles in the 350-500 cc. Sure their numbers are not a patch on the Heros and Hondas of this world but it is a fact that RE cannot build enough motorcycles and are looking for expansion plans. Herein comes the mouth-watering proposition by the Government of India to reduce the taxes imposed on CKD and SKD motorcycles in India. Suddenly the price gap between the econo-commuter to the leisure/sport motorcycle will come down.
Logically more of those current small motorcycle/scooter users will look for upgrades. So Heros, Bajajs and Hondas will have no option but to develop more interesting motorcycles in different styles and engine configurations. I will gulp one to that! We are already getting to see some upward action in the intermediate cubic-capacity front – we have KTM and Bajaj with 390 and the Dominar respectively knocking on the magical land occupied by RE. TVS, who never fails to excite, has launched the Apache RR 310.
We have also seen hitherto big-league players like Kawasaki punching below their weight with the likes of Versys-X 300. Later this year we will see BMW entering this segment too, with the G 310 GS. For the Harley minded, they will be able to look at the possibility of a Fat Boy with realistic glee instead of settling for a Street. Triumph having done extremely well in recent times will be tightening their gloves to take on RE when the 650 Twins arrive. Bonneville or Interceptor? You decide.
Our motorcycle world is getting far more exciting than ever before. Like Adil san wrote in the January issue, I can’t believe that it is the same journalists who got excited about RX 100s and Shoguns not so long ago, now wielding world class machines. Change, they say, is inevitable! One last one for that! Hic!