So, what do you reckon the best selling motorcycle in the world is these days? BMW GS? Fireblade? One of those 125s that are increasingly popular in the UK, like a Honda CBR125 or Yamaha YZF-R125? If you said any of the above then you are not even close.
India’s biggest selling motorbike
While BMW knock out around 100,000 motorcycles a year, the Indian Bajaj company is selling the same number of bikes each week! Bajaj’s Pulsar, a neat little single with engines from 135cc to 220cc, is India’s biggest selling motorcycle. Costing less that £700, it boasts (according to Bajaj) ‘class leading power of 15PS’ making it the ‘true king of the road’.
The size of the Indian market means that none of the major domestic manufacturers are showing much interest in exporting their products west, unlike the Chinese, whose imported models are becoming increasing popular in the UK. However, that’s not stopping the European manufacturers from trying to get a piece of the Indian action.
Government protectionist policies mean that it is tricky (read expensive) to sell complete motorcycles in India, but the burgeoning Indian middle classes are keen to buy the latest western bikes.
Selling bikes by the millions
India has many active and increasingly wealthy motorcyclists. The Superbike World Championship travels to the new circuit in Delhi for the first time this year, while Harley and Ducati have already opened up dealerships in the main cities. Meanwhile Triumph has publically announced its plans not only to sell big bikes, but to also develop a range of small capacity models for the ‘emerging markets’. Selling bikes by the millions, at just a few dollars profit each, requires a different business model for a company which currently sells just 50,000 units a year but it will be interesting to see what comes out of the Hinckley R&D department.
One company which is already very active in India is KTM, which took the safer route of entering a joint venture with Bajaj. That has lead to the 200 and 390 Dukes, entry levels model in Europe that gives the Austrian company a welcome low cost proposition to new riders, but top end models in the Bajaj range that are high end sports bikes in India.
It will be interesting to see how the ginormous Indian market influences us in Europe in the coming years, especially with the continuing decline in big bike sales.
With the Brazilian and Chinese markets also on the rise, and building better quality bikes to satisfy their increasingly affluent customers, we shouldn’t be surprised to see a powershift in the motorcycle industry in the next decade or so.