Harley-Davidson to launch 250-500cc & mid-weight bikes in India next year

The struggling American superbike maker will debut its smallest bike till date, strapped with a 250-500cc engine, in little over a year’s time.

A year after it announced plans of rolling out a small capacity bike for the Asian market including India, Harley-Davidson said it is ready to launch such a bike next year.

The struggling American superbike maker will debut its smallest bike till date, strapped with a 250-500cc engine, in little over a year’s time, a top company executive said during its Q1 CY19 earnings call.

To be launched with an undisclosed local player as part of a strategic alliance, Harley said there has been progress made towards it. The small capacity bike plan is included in the company’s ‘More Roads’ initiative, a strategic long-term plan.

Matt Levatich, President & Chief Executive Officer, Harley-Davidson said, “More Roads progress in Q1 included steps towards a partnership for a premium small displacement offering in Asia, to expand our reach in that region. We are just over a year away from launching our first model that will help provide access to millions of customers in emerging markets in the region.”

Harley’s smallest bike in its India line-up has an engine of 750cc and costs Rs 5.25 lakh (ex-showroom). In comparison, bikes manufactured by its rivals such as BMW and KTM have engines starting with 300-400cc, and both were developed tapping the expertise of TVS Motor Company and Bajaj Auto. All such bikes of BMW and KTM carry a price tag of under Rs 3.5 lakh.

“We're acting with agility and discipline to take advantage of rapidly evolving global markets. In eight months since we announced More Roads, we have built our capabilities and met each of our planned milestones. Our progress in near-term results reinforce that we are indeed on the right strategic path and what we are doing is working,” Levatich added.

From an all-time peak of 4,708 unit sales in 2015-16, Harley Davidson’s sales in 2017-18 stood at 3,413 units. This further slipped to 2,676 units in 2018-19, a fall of 22 percent, as per data shared by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).

The American heavyweight hoped that the launch of one or more affordable motorcycles in India, the world’s single largest two-wheeler market, will help it generate volumes.

Though Eicher Motors-owned Royal Enfield does not sell its bikes at the same price points as Harley, the buyer profile of both the brands is largely the same. RE has more than doubled its sales in the last four years to eight lakh units.

In recent months, RE launched its biggest bikes – Interceptor and Continental GT - with a 650cc engine. Both bikes are priced under Rs 2.7 lakh, whereas rivals with similar engine capacity are priced over Rs 5.5 lakh.

Besides the small engine bike, Harley will also be launching new bikes under the mid-weight category next year. A streetfighter and an adventure touring model will be launched in 2020. These new models will have an engine of less than 600cc. Both these new models are expected to come to India.

"It's worth noting that while our intense focus remains on our More Roads delivery, it's also squarely on managing our business through the significant and very real pressures we're facing across the global motorcycle industry, including the impact of the ongoing trade wars," Levatich said.

“Today we participate in segments that represent approximately 40 percent of the global 601+cc volume. When we deliver our new mid-weight motorcycles under More Roads, we will compete in segments representing nearly 90 percent of that global volume. Add to that, the opportunities we have in global lower displacement and electric segments,” Levatich added.

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