In the wake of the Leoncino launch, we got a chance to have a long conversation with Vikas Jhabakh, Managing Director, Benelli India, about the company’s future plans and products in the pipeline
With the rough patches behind it, Benelli seems to have a positive outlook for the future under the new management. The Italian brand suffered quite a setback after its Indian wing - DSK Motowheels suffered bankruptcy due to their real estate businesses in 2017.
Management of Benelli was then taken over by Adishwar Auto Ride India (AARI) - a new company floated by the Mahavir Group for this venture - in August last year. Soon after the take over, the company re-introduced the TNT 300, 302R and the TNT 600i. To follow it up, Benelli brought in the TrK 502 and TrK 502X in February this year, and now the Leoncino too.
But it seems like this is just the beginning. We had a long chat with Vikas Jhabakh, Managing Director, Benelli India, and here are some key highlights:
1.) Existing Customers: Benelli says one of the first things on the new management’s agenda was to address the apprehensions of the existing customers and dealers. The company connected with their existing customers and assured them future stability in terms of service and parts support. The 5 year / Unlimited kilometre warranty for their motorcycles is one of the steps in that direction.
2.) Network: During its peak with the DSK Group, Benelli had roughly 35-40 dealership and service touch points in the country. With the DSK Group facing bankruptcy, the bike maker had to bear the loss of some of its dealer partners. But it seems that AARI has done reasonably well to tackle the situation. Expanding from the few dealerships that they managed to retain, the company now has 19 touch points across the country. Benelli India also announced plans of increasing this number by 12-15 dealerships in the next two months and further expanding it to a total of 60 outlets by the end of 2020.
3.) Product Portfolio: Benelli India already has 5 motorcycles on sale in India - TNT 300, 302R, TrK 502, TrK 502X, and the recently launched Leoncino. The Italian bike maker is expected to introduce 3 new products around the festive season this year.
⁃ Imperiale 400: Benelli took the wraps off the Imperiale 400 at EICMA 2017 and has been under consideration for the Indian market. Expect this new motorcycle to finally be in the market ready to take on the Royal Enfield Classic 350 and Jawa around the festive season this year. It is likely to be in the Rs 1.9-2 lakh price range. The retro-styles cruiser comes with a 373.5cc single-cylinder heart that produces roughly 21bhp and 28Nm.
⁃ Two 250cc offerings: During their first stint, Benelli was doing well in the 250cc space. In fact, the TNT25 accounted for close to 50% of the brand sales. It doesn’t quite come as a surprise that they are looking to re-enter this space. While there is no official communication about which two motorcycles will be launched in this space, given its history, the TNT 25 could possibly make a come back too.
⁃ New products in 2020: Benelli is also working on a few new products that will be launched in India towards the end of 2020. While there is no official communication on what these products are, we can expect new products from existing platforms as well as some all-new offerings specifically designed for India and other upcoming markets.
⁃ TNT 600i: Spy shots of what looks like the new TNT 600i for the Chinese market have recently surfaced online. While a new 600i is on the cards, this new design may not make it to India. A mild update next year, along with the BS-VI update will be introduced.
4.) BS-VI plans: Benelli’s existing products including the Leoncino as well as the upcoming three offerings are all BS IV compliant. Graduating to BS-VI compliant motorcycles is sure to come at a cost to customers - expect a 5-10% increase in cost depending on the product. Benelli is going to be ready with the updated models when the rule comes into effect in April 2020. Jhabakh says Benelli has no plans to bring the BS-VI products and have more customers bare the expenses.