Bajaj certainly had the most exciting unveiling at the Auto Expo. Not only did they show off a fully faired sporty Pulsar 400 SS, which is just about ready for production, but they also showcased a very attractive looking naked bike called the 400 CS. Both the 400 SS and CS will feature the same 375cc unit found in the KTM Duke 390 and they also boast a similar frame, while the naked 400CS has got the same handlebars as the Duke 390. Overall the Pulsar 400 bikes share similar specs and components that have been borrowed from the Duke. The Pulsar 400 SS will be launched somewhere around Diwali time and you can expect it to be priced just under Rs. 2 lakhs.
The perfect example to show how the Indian two-wheeler industry has progressed is the new Street 750 from the legendary American bike maker. Harley-Davidson will for the first time in its 110-year history manufacture motorcycles from scratch here in India. The Street 750 was officially launched at the Auto Expo and it comes with an all-new liquid cooled engine that produces 64Nm of torque. It will be the cheapest Harley-Davidson available throughout the world. The Street 750 bookings will commence in June and will carry a price tag of just Rs. 4.1 lakh ex-showroom Delhi.
We sat down with Harley Davidson MD, Anoop Prakash, to find out just what led to the historic launch of the Street 750:
How has the journey been so far for Harley-Davidson in India?
It’s been exhilarating. There are a few key things that have led us to where we are today, and that is our ability to deliver a world class Harley-Davidson experience. Plus, we’ve been investing substantially to make our bikes more accessible. We want to offer customers the freedom and adventure that goes with the brand, and that’s what has brought us to where we are today.
What were the biggest obstacles that the brand has faced?
I don’t think we had many obstacles. Most importantly, we wanted to educate the enthusiasts, and demonstrate the spirit of motorcycling the Harley-Davidson way. It was important for us to demonstrate leisure motorcycling in India, and the culture that Harley-Davidson has associated with it. We had to execute that at the grassroots level with rallies and events, where we showed what we had to offer. Fortunately, people got it.
What does the future look like for Harley-Davidson in India?
It looks really bright. We have a lot of enthusiasm. Currently we have thirteen dealers, and we’re going to add three more. Our customer base is growing fast, and 2013 was a really good year for us with double-digit growth. Now we have the Street 750, which has been developed entirely on our customer feedback, and we really think that Harley-Davidson is going to do big things. We will continue to organize rides and rallies, and we will continue to promote our sense of spirit and freedom.
How did the Street 750 come into being? How long did it take for it to be developed?
The Street 750 is the first new platform in fourteen years. We interviewed 3,000 customers from 10 different countries, and 500 of those customers were from India. We actually started on the Street 750 in 2008. We were completely driven by our customers, and we listened to them. We are a 110 year-old brand, and we have always listened to our customers. There’s a major push towards urbanization, and with that a younger demographic customer base – and they all wanted something that was authentic and which had a dark custom street soul. We got specific feedback for a specific bike. That’s how we came up with the Street 750.
Hero Moto Corp did have some very interesting bikes on display, including a café racer, a hydrogen fueled motorcycle, a diesel motorcycle with two-wheel drive, a fully electric scooter, and not to mention the beautiful bikes from Eric Buell Racing. But what we were really excited to see was the HX250R concept. This bike will most probably make it to production sometime next year, and it does look to be a very promising machine. The full-faired 250cc sports bike looks aggressive and has got a good stance, but its build quality did seem a little poor. However, it does come with quite a good engine that will churn out 31bhp @ 9000rpm. We do not have any additional specs and we are looking to find out more from Hero on this brilliant concept.
Honda Motorcycle and Scooters India had a large display of some of their best selling domestic and global products, and they grabbed a lot of attention, but the concept CX-01 Motorcycle we saw grabbed our attention immediately. Firstly, this bike has been fully designed and developed at Honda’s R&D centre in Manesar. The CX-01 is also known as the CROSS concept, because it is designed as a perfect blend for on-road riding and tough outdoor performance. The bike looks really good, and the fact that it was developed in India says a lot. We could very well be seeing a similar bike like this from Honda in the coming years, but as of now no specifications or additional information has been shared with us regarding this rather interesting concept vehicle.
The CBR500R is a global mid-range sports bike that was unveiled to the world early last year, but the fact that Honda has shown the bike in India means that it might be making its way to our shores very soon. The bike is a fully faired sports bike that comes with a 500cc parallel twin, liquid cooled unit that produces 47bhp and can race from 0-100km/h in just 5.7 seconds. The bike will most probably be available sometime at the end of the year and will carry a price tag of around Rs. 4 lakh because it will be brought in as a CKD unit.
The Korean manufacturer of superbikes also launched a very important product for the Indian market. The Aquila 250 was first launched almost a decade ago and now it is back. DSK Hyosung have brought back this entry level cruiser and it looks pretty good. It is powered by a V-twin oil-cooled 250cc unit that puts out 26.2bhp and 21.4Nm of torque. The Aquila 250 also get decked out with chrome and it has a nice big front windshield but its dimensions still make it a small bike. The build quality is good and it comes with a price tag of Rs. 2.69lakh ex-showroom Delhi.
Another product that was showcased and which will make its appearance in India soon was the GD 250N. This is a naked entry-level sports bike that is based on the Comet – essentially it is a naked Comet 250. It comes with great street fighter looks and it also gets a powerful single-cylinder engine that can create 28bhp and is mated to a nice 6-speed gearbox. The GD 250N will most likely be launched sometime at the end of this year and it will give stiff competition to the KTM Duke and the Kawasaki Ninja. It will also be priced around Rs. 2.5 lakh.
Suzuki V-Strom 1000
The Japanese manufacturer showcased four products that will go on sale in India this year, and one of them was the V-Strom 1000. The V-Strom is an adventure tourer that comes with a massive 1037cc V-twin unit and will provide around 97bhp with very good torque. The V-Strom doesn’t really have much competition because the adventurer tourer segment hasn’t been established well in India just yet, but Suzuki is hoping to capitalize on that with this amazing bike. The V-Strom 1000 will cost Rs.14.5 lakh ex-showroom Delhi and it will be imported as a CBU.
We sat down with Atul Gupta, VP Sales & Marketing, Suzuki Motorcycle India, to get a sense of how they plan to stand out in a crowded market:
The two-wheel market has done better than the car market over the past year. What do you see in the next 12 months?
The two-wheeler market is more of a commuter market, so it’s a necessity. Therefore, you can’t see that kind of de-growth. Going forward, I still think it’ll remain flat for the next 12-18 months, but with the kind of importance given to this Auto Expo, everybody is really hopeful that things should become better after 18 months or so.
What is your focus in terms of your range for this calendar year?
There are 2 broad focuses, other than we need to take the brand forward. We’re still 5th in terms of numbers, but in terms of perception about the brand we’re probably at number 3. We are trying to improve our brand recall value however. In terms of products, with the Suzuki Gixxer 150cc, we’re trying to enter into a more practical, niche, and young market in the metros, and hopefully that will give us some volumes. In scooters, we are consolidating our portfolio. We are already doing fairly well in scooters, and with the Lets coming in I think more young customers will fall into that bracket.
There are a lot of new players coming into the market. How do you plan to sustain the energy within your brand?
Two things have become important because so many products at different price points have come in. Customers sometimes get confused. Firstly, they look at the brand, and then they look at the model. We need to make sure our existing customers give us good references. That’s the focus we have, because products come and go, but the brand remains. Salman Khan has given us an identity separate from Maruti – and our identity is what we were struggling with. He’s given us a head start thanks to his mass appeal and ability to target various segments.
When the Mahindra Mojo was first shown to us at the last Auto Expo we were horrified by its clumsy design and tacky looks, but thankfully Mahindra two-wheelers went back to the drawing board and this time they have shown us a much better looking bike. The new design for the Mojo is much better and it gives it a modern and aggressive look. The Mojo will come with a 300cc single-cylinder unit that will churn out around 28bhp of power. It will also come with Pirelli tyres and a 6-speed gearbox. The Mojo looks production ready and we do expect to see it hit showrooms by June of this year, and it will be priced very competitively.
Another Japanese bike maker – but lesser known – Terra Motors also had their electric motorcycle and scooters on display. Their latest model, called the A4000i, was launched last year in Tokyo. This mass-produced scooter can record data on the rider’s smart phone. It has a full battery range of 65 kilometres, and is able to reach a top speed of 65km/h. The A4000i is just one of several models that will make their way to the Indian market, and we’re eager to see just how this new EV manufacturer does in India.
Although they didn’t have any significant official launches at the Auto Expo, TVS still had a very good setup and display of machines. The most interesting of course was the Draken. Tagged by TVS Motor Company’s R&D team as a thorough bred naked bike with aggression and attitude, the Draken–X21’s futuristic and fresh design is all about thematic evolution, and it maintains a progressive link to the established Apache RTR design language. The bike is fitted with a liquid cooled 250cc engine and is built upon an aluminium trellis frame. TVS has not had a new motorcycle launch in a long time, but we hope the Draken will inspire a fresh new product form the Chennai based bike maker. TVS also had their trademark Apache 300FX dirt bike on display, as well as another scooter concept called the Graphite, with a design based on a stealth military aircraft.
Triumph has finally made it to India and last year they launched ten very exciting products for the Indian market across 5 different segments. At the Auto Expo they had their full range of bikes on display and they looked as beautiful as ever. But the legendary British bike maker had a little surprise for us as well, as they launched another product in the supersports category. The latest addition to their Indian portfolio is the new Daytona 675. The Daytona is a lower spec version of the Daytona 675 R, but it comes with the same engine and the same power figures, which are 124bhp and 74Nm of torque. The Daytona 675 has been priced at Rs. 10.15 lakh ex-showroom Delhi, which is quite good for a bike of this caliber.
Vardenchi & Moto Morini
The Mumbai based custom bike builder was also present at the Auto Expo and they had some very exciting news. Vardenchi has partnered with Italian bike manufacturer Moto Morini and they have brought 2 models to India – the Scrambler and the Granpasso.
Vardenchi will also team up with Moto Morini to design and develop India’s first luxury motorcycle. Vardenchi also showcased their T5 concept motorbike, which was designed by the company themselves in Navi Mumbai and it features Moto Morini’s powerful 1200cc V-Twin engine. The T5 will be launched in India soon, and prices for the Moto Morini bikes are yet to be announced.
Yamaha was perhaps the first bike maker in the country to introduce affordable performance bikes to the masses with the Yamaha Fz S and R15, and since then we have seen the likes of KTM, Kawasaki and Honda enter into the segment. But hopefully Yamaha will have the last laugh as it showcased a very attractive looking 250cc motorcycle at the Tokyo Motor Show, and that is heavily influenced from their M1 Moto GP bike. The bike aptly named the R25 features a parallel twin 249cc engine, but no power figures have been announced just yet. The bike’s engine will also be mated with a 6-speed transmission and the brakes will use discs in the front and the rear. We will expect to see the production version at the end of the year.
Piaggio brought on a full arsenal of display that included Vespa Scooters, Aprilia and Moto Guzzi motorcycles, but they only launched one new product for the Indian market and that was the Vespa S. The Vespa S will be positioned above the Vespa 125 VX and it comes with the same 125cc single-cylinder engine that produces 10bhp and 10Nm, and it is mated to a CVT transmission. The Vespa S looks very sporty and is built on a monocoque steel chassis and its design features a square headlight and a redesigned analogue instrument cluster. The Vespa S hasn’t been priced yet but we can expect it to cost around Rs. 80,000 ex-showroom Delhi.