Why Your Next Bike May Come From India

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Why Your Next Bike May Come From India

India has the fastest growing and second largest motorcycle market in the world and next week the 2014 Auto Expo, in Delhi will open its doors with a whole series of new motorcycles being launched.

Many of these motorcycles will never make it to the U.S. but it’s interesting to take a look at why some of the best-known manufacturers are starting to take India and its motorcycle market very seriously.

India’s population maybe enormous, latest estimates are around 1.2 billion people, and a recent survey last year by bankers Credit Suisse estimate the country has currently more than 182,000 millionaires, which is 24,000 more than it had in 2012.

It is also the second largest motorcycle market in the world, coming in right behind China, but until recently motorcycles up to 150cc dominated the Indian market. However, with increased consumer affluence and demand, several of the European, U.S. and Japanese manufacturers have started to move in to India to take advantage of a growing large capacity motorcycle sector and the sales opportunities it offers. Last year, the over 500cc motorcycle segment in India surged by almost 60% while the smaller capacity sector remained almost flat with just 3.6% growth.

2014 Harley-Davidson Street 500
2014 Harley-Davidson Street 500

However, millions of people in India don’t have sufficient incomes yet to even to buy a domestic small capacity motorcycle costing around $640. But financial experts are predicting huge economic growth in India in the next 10 years, which is in part why last year Harley-Davidson announced it would build its forthcoming Street models in India.  The company’s Bawal plant will manufacture both the 500cc and 750 cc Street bikes, which will then be sold in India and distributed in other markets this spring.

2014 Indian Chieftain
2014 Indian Chieftain

Later this year, Harley-Davidson will be joined in India by Indian Motorcycle, which will start selling its Chief models with prices expected to start at around $26,500 for the entry level Classic up to $33,000 for the Chieftain. Prices in India can be as much as double than in the U.S. due to the country’s high import tariffs.

This is another reason why many motorcycle manufacturers have either sought out Indian business partners or, as in the case of Harley-Davidson, established their own Indian production facilities. Harley-Davidson assembles in India nine out of the 12 models it currently sells in India, allowing it to keep prices competitive.

Hero Glamour
Hero Glamour

However, it’s not a one-way invasion of motorcycle manufacturers into the sub continent. India’s largest motorcycle producer, Hero MotoCorp, last summer bought a 49% stake, worth $25 million, in Erik Buell Racing LLC.

More recently, Buell announced a new distribution base for its Europe markets in Alkmaar, Holland. This decision was made to also help support Buell’s participation in the 2014 FIM World Superbike Championship with its riders, Geoff May and Aaron Yates.

But with Hero MotoCorp now as a partner it would be a wise move for Hero to expand distribution of its own products in the European markets. Hero has already said it intends to start selling Hero motorcycles in the U.S. this year with the aim of attracting younger riders or commuters looking for cheaper motorcycles.

2014 KTM 390 Duke
2014 KTM 390 Duke

Bajaj Auto, India’s second-largest producer of motorcycles, has a 48% stake in Austria’s KTM Sports AG and assembles and sells the 200 Duke at its Chakan plant, near Pune. It also imports and distributes the KTM 390 and distributes Kawasaki motorcycles. What other KTM’s could be manufactured and sold worldwide from India?

BMW has been established in India for a  long while now but recently announced a joint venture with TVS Motor company – another leading Indian motorcycle manufacturer – to start developing motorcycles with 500cc and larger engines for sale in India and other overseas markets.

Next week all of these manufacturers and others will come together for the 2014 Auto Expo in Delhi that will showcase the latest motorcycles built in India and from around the world. Prior to the Auto Expo, several companies saw an opportunity this week to unveil to the media new bikes for the domestic market, including Suzuki that announced an all-new model – the Gixxer.

2014 Suzuki Gixxer 150
2014 Suzuki Gixxer 150

If you thought you knew what a Suzuki Gixxer was this might make you need to reconsider. It’s not the sport bike you were thinking of.  Built in India and just for the Indian market, the Suzuki Gixxer is a four-stroke, 155cc air/oil cooled single that has been designed to appeal to a young audience. The Gixxer will be the flagship motorcycle in India for Suzuki for the moment but Suzuki has high plans for the market in the next few years

It would appear that electric motorcycles have not been forgotten either, Japanese electronics company Terra will next week showcase its electric sport bike, the Kiwami, at the Auto Expo.

2014 Terra Kiwami
2014 Terra Kiwami

The Tokyo-based company is sufficiently confident the Indian market is ready for electric motorcycles and thinks it can take 25 percent of that segment this year. The Indian electric bike market is estimated to be around 60,000 units a year.

Terra, which sold 20,000 electric vehicles in Japan last year, claims its Kiwami motorcycle has a range of 200 miles and can reach more than 85 mph. The issue for Terra is not about performance but more about its high price, which equates to around $18,000.

It’s early days, but India as a major player in the world of motorcycle manufacturers and shouldn’t be ignored. This year the U.S. could see the first Indian manufactured motorcycles on sale here.

Would you buy a motorcycle built in India?

  • Conrad

    The “experts” in financial experts should be in quotes.

    • AHA

      Absolutely. GDP Growth in BRIC countries and others in the developing world has slowed from peaks in 2008/9. Of course these are still key, emerging markets and they will continue to grow in importance but there will be many blips along the way. The US & Europe needn’t shut up shop just yet. Let’s see how well the build quality lasts on KTMs 390 range in two years time.

  • Archie

    Why your next bike may come from India… Well, that’s easy, because it will. RC390, get in my garage.

    • yakimushi

      I *want* my next bike to be from India, but if KTM doesn’t get the lead out it might not be.

    • Dave Mason

      I so wish I had a reason to buy an RC390, but with a track-only GSX-R600 and Ninja 300 already in the garage I just can’t justify it.

      • Guy Simmonds

        Sell the 300? I wish I could justify an RC390, but can’t afford to keep more than one bike – and the CBR500R just seems so much more practical.

        • Kevin Broce

          I feel like a RC390 would be an excellent contrast to my CB1100.

        • Dave Mason

          The Ninja 300 is the wife’s bike and since she only rides ~4K miles/year it isn’t worth upgrading.

  • John

    There’s a very high likelihood, unless I get a Freeride first.

  • Justin McClintock

    I certainly wouldn’t mind my next bike coming from India if it were one of the 390cc KTMs. Or have a heavy Indian involvement if it were an EBR (although I’m pretty sure that’s not gonna fit in the budget).

  • Stig Sarangi

    The average Indian rider/drivers first question is “Kitna deti hai?” (How much gas mileage does it give?). It is ironic that enthusiasts used to laugh and make fun of this attitude, but within a span of few years, this has become the number #1 question for most the world over. Needless to say that this very well thought out article, and it goes on to show the new manufacturing trend. Even car companies like Suzuki, Hyundai, Ford and GM have made India their export hubs for small cars. Just one correction Bajaj does manufacturer the Duke 390 in its chakan plant apart from few imported parts.

  • hunkyleepickle

    For better or worse, most consumer markets, including cars, motorcycles, movies, and most consumer electronics, will no longer be designed, marketed, or manufactured for or by North American markets, but instead for the Indian and Chinese markets. I’m sure this is a hard pill for most red blooded americans to swallow, but get used to it. On the bright side, we can look forward to those markets dictating a pace of generally more efficient, affordable, and conservative motorcycles, rather than the status north american quo of bigger, faster, louder, and more expensive motorcycles. I for one welcome our new masters /s.

    • Joe Bielski

      “I for one welcome our new masters”
      Hahahahaha, for the win :P

    • http://www.mises.org/ Core

      Yeah it is a hard pill to swallow, probably because I’ve still got a long life ahead of me, and it honestly makes me wonder where “America” is headed..
      The elected officials in this country are going to drive it into the ground… and when the financial rubble’s at our feet.. their going to look around say, “oh we didn’t know this was going to happen. ”

      That aside, to answer the question of the article. If an American manufacture is not making a realistic quality product that I can afford, and a foreign manufacture is, and they sell stuff in the United States, then I am going to buy it. Its a matter of practicality.

  • Jack Meoph

    http://www.motorbeam.com/ is an english language web site that reports on India’s motor world, both auto and motorcycle. There are more than a few articles on the duke 390, and a really bad photo gallery. Honestly, the 390 is one of the few bikes of any interest from the Indian or Chinese market. Until they can out Japanese the Japanese (or maybe bring the cache of the Euros) I’m not interested in what they got. But the Duke 390….now that is a toy worthy of the once over twice.

  • ThinkingInImages

    Sure, why not? Where something is built isn’t as important as how well it’s built and supported. It’s a big world.

    When I first saw a Royal Enfield at a show “made in India” was not my first thought. The reps were nice, well informed, motorcycle people and they were proudly showing very well made motorcycles.

    My Honda CBR250R is built in Thailand. It’s still a Honda. It also gave me a good reason to read up on Thailand.

  • Rameses the 2nd

    The current one is from Thailand (Triumph). As a consumer, it doesn’t matter to me where the bikes are made as long as companies treat their offshore employees like humans and QC is maintained.

  • Dustin Coury

    Mmmmmm RC390

  • kent_skinner

    I’d be happier buying a bike made in the US, but since I’m not interested in a cruiser or have the budget for a Buell or Motus… it’ll be from somewhere like India. Currently riding Japanese.

  • Joel Leggett

    Well most of that growth in the 500cc market in India has been with Royal Enfield. They have had year over year increases of 50% and the like. They will make 250,000 motorcycles in 2014, they reported making over 130,000 in 2013. All of the motorcycles from Royal Enfield are either 350, 500 or 535 cc. The Continental GT has been well reviewed and having seen it in person I will say that the fit and finish of Royal Enfields is getting better every year.

    I love my 2011 Royal Enfield Bullet G5. They are now starting to export in larger numbers. But last year their exports were less than 5% of their machines. I hope this increases. Give the Continental GT a test ride if you want a classic looking cafe racer bike (be aware its not fast).

    • Rohan DMello

      Bullet is still considered a Status Symbol in India. I hope that remains no matter which manufacturer comes to India and what kind of motorcycle they make. Bullet was, is and will be my dream motorcycle.

  • panthalassa

    that 150 is kinda cute … wonder if anyone at suzi has ever considered it as a competitor for the grom …

  • Rohan DMello

    I feel proud that India is getting recognized, Indian motorcycles are getting recognized (Royal Enfield) around the globe.

  • Ralph Emerson

    I think that India has a great opportunity to wrest motor vehicle manufacturing from China. The key is to enforce robust intellectual property rights. China will continue to struggle with that and smart manufacturers can do well to do more business in India.