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India: Do The Big Motorcycle Makers Threaten Royal Enfield?

  Posted at 08:00:00 AM
  File under  Royal Enfield
  Author: Mike Werner
  Location: Normandy, France
click to see where India is on the map

Royal Enfield logo
Over the last two years, almost every major, and minor, motorcycle manufacturer has announced that it was going to start selling their motorcycles in India (see related articles below). After China, India has become the number one motorcycle market, and big names, like Harley-Davidson, BMW and Ducati are selling their motorcycles in this enormous market.

But what does this mean to the local manufacturers? First of all, India has an protective environment. If your goods are not made locally, you'll need to pay an enormous import duty. But for the increasingly affluent Indian buyer, this will not scare them from buying a super expensive Harley.

Second of all, most of the local manufacturers are into the low-cost and small displacement motorcycles. Names like Bajaj, Hero Motorcycles and TVS make small and cheap motorcycles, something the foreign manufacturers can not, and do not, compete with.

But there's one motorcycle manufacturer in India who can be hit by the new kids on the block; Royal Enfield Open link in a new window. The Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle, originally designed and made in the UK, has been unchanged since its conception (apart from technology changes).

Click for bigger version of
Open image in a new window  A Royal Enfield sidecar

The classic Enfield motorcycle is situated above the local brands, and more expensive. Several years ago, if a biker wanted something more than a 100-150cc motorcycle, the only real choice they had was a Royal Enfield. But now they have a lot more choice. Granted, the price difference is still enormous, but if you've got the cash, a Ducati Desmo could be more interesting than a Royal Enfield Bullet 500.

Royal Enfield have realized this, and are taking measures. They are restructuring the company, making it flatter and able to make decisions faster. They'll need to update their product line quickly (which they have been doing recently, though the updates are more limited to color changes). A new state-of-the-art factory is opening in 2013, and will make Enfield more adaptable to quick product changes.

Enfield will also start looking more abroad for their expansion plans. In Europe and North America, there are many fans for classic-looking motorcycles, often as a second motorcycle.

So who knows, maybe we'll be seeing Royal Enfields made in the UK again.... In the mean time, I doubt that this old manufacturer will see tough times. They'll adapt. They always do.

Inspired by: Wheels Unplugged

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