Vinod Dasari, CEO, Royal Enfield, accepts the award for the Interceptor 650, while we sit down with Siddhartha Lal, MD, Eicher Motors.
Sid, you must be fed up of receiving awards for the Interceptor?
Never, never (laughs). That can never happen!
But, are you surprised at the response you’ve got?
I’m absolutely delighted, but I can’t say I’m surprised because the Interceptor is truly a very special bike. We’ve put our heart, soul and energies for half-a-decade behind this, and it’s come out exactly as we wanted it. So, we’re delighted about it, for sure.
In India as well, but also in mature markets like the UK, you’re getting rave reviews. Did you expect that going in?
It’s all to a plan. This new platform was made with an idea that it’ll be Royal Enfield’s first proper big global motorcycle. The specifications, if you look at it, are at the higher end of Indian specifications, but also at the threshold level of European specifications. It’s extremely highway worthy. You can go 80 miles an hour at part throttle, and you’ve still got a lot more to spare. In the UK already, we’re the number two naked bike in the mid-weight category, which is brilliant, and we’ve got awards there and people are loving it. We’ve already crossed some very big models of other European or American brands. So, we’re doing well.
What people love about this bike is that it goes to the heart of pure motorcycling. Was that the intent?
We really tried to be extremely focussed with this motorcycle – so, excel at the essentials and cut out everything else! Just make sure that what we do, we do really well – that’s also part of the reason why the rolling chassis of the Continental GT and the Interceptor are exactly the same, because every single change means a lot more time, attention and energy. So, everything is the same – the tyres are the same, and so is the suspension. The end result is that we’ve been able to make something tremendous, but also something quite accessible. So, yes, that was the idea.
Over the past few years, you’ve got a new production facility on stream, a technology centre in UK, and the rollout of these models worldwide. How challenging has all that been?
If you look at the past, at every point in the last fifteen years, there’s been a different bottleneck. For example, in 2010, we hit a ramp, and then the bottleneck was manufacturing – we weren’t able to make enough. So, for the next five years, we worked on our supply chain and we opened up our first modern plant in Oragadam. And now we really know how to make motorcycles. It’s taken us time and effort, but we’ve got it underway. Then, and I’m talking about 6-8 years ago, when we foresaw that the gap was going to be in our new product line-up, we opened up our technology centre. Today, we have a UK technology centre with 150 engineers, and our Chennai tech centre has just opened up, and it’s absolutely fabulous – and these are the kinds of products that are coming out of there. So, now we believe that we really know how to make new products. It’s exciting, that’s what we live for and that’s what we enjoy – all the different aspects of a motorcycle company.
There are a lot of new players coming into the Indian market to challenge you. What next from Royal Enfield?
What next is to demonstrate the absolute strength that we have in our product development. Our engineering is absolutely superlative, at par with anyone in the world. So, what you’re going to see is bikes like this – the Interceptor. This was our first motorcycle with our all new product development process, and it’s taken us a long time. It takes four years to make a ground-up new product. Over time, at best, it’ll become 3.5 years – but it does take that long. And we’re not going to cut short that process. We’re going to do the millions of kilometres that we need to do in testing and validation to get the product to be absolutely perfect, and all our new models are going to follow the same path. And, in fact, we’ll continue to improve the process. So, it’s a totally new world of motorcycles that you’re going to see from Royal Enfield.
Will we see a Himalayan 650 as well?
I’d love one, but, no, not right now – not in the near future.
Also read - Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, Track Test