A brief explainer on how we got to where we are in 2023.
Early July 2023 has been a busy few weeks for Triumph, Bajaj, Harley and Hero Motocorp. Of course all four companies are working hard behind the scenes, but Triumph’s Speed 400 and Scrambler 400 have been working on it for a long time. The pure excitement is clearly conveyed.
From an international perspective, the partnership in building these bikes makes perfect sense. Just spend some time in a few Asian countries and you will see a veritable sea of small displacement bikes, ridden by every type of rider imaginable and relying on the two wheels of their choice to get through their day-to-day lives. increase. Depending on local regulations, large-displacement bikes can have exorbitant taxes on top of the initial cost, so you will rarely see them.
What if there was a secret third type of displacement, though? Something in between a 125 or 150 and, say, an 1100cc Africa Twin? Something that’s right in that 300 to 400cc range, offering just a little more oomph but not bulldozing the line into full-on Big Bike territory. More power is good, but potentially running afoul of displacement-related taxes and/or tiered licensing restrictions (depending on the market) is suboptimal, to say the least. Manufacturing partnerships are also important in terms of both resources and geography, particularly with regard to import tariffs and maintaining a desirable pricing structure to attract potential buyers.
Royal Enfield has been active in the field for some time, getting off to a head start with three 350s: the Meteor 350 Cruiser, the retro-modern Standard Classic 350 and the modern Hunter 350 City machine. Triumph/Bajaj and Harley-Davidson/Hero are also eagerly on the table for that sweet middleweight cake. Let’s not forget Aprilia. The Piaggio Group has explicitly said it intends to launch its own mid-range bike sometime in 2023, but as of this writing this has yet to materialize. (Jawa is also an active player in this space, but its international intentions do not appear to be very far-reaching.)
All of the above companies, except Aprilia, will launch these bikes initially in India and later on in other international markets. The reason is clear. India remains the world’s largest two-wheeler market and has the world’s largest two-wheeler population. This sector is also showing significant growth. A bike like this represents a step up from his 125cc scooter, but it’s also an ambitious step forward that’s reasonably achievable. An apple on a branch that reaches out on tiptoes. But that doesn’t mean you have to knock on your neighbor’s door to rent a ladder.
How lucrative is this segment? In an interview shortly after the release of the Triumph Speed 400 and Scrambler 400 X in late June 2023, Bajaj managing director Rajiv Bajaj told Autocar Professional that he sees Triumph selling up to 40,000 to 50,000 of the TR-platform bikes annually in the next year or so. Bajaj (the man) is in a good position to know, as the company has had a longstanding partnership with KTM prior to its Triumph partnership.
According to Bajaj, KTM’s annual motorcycle sales were in the 65,000 range back in 2007, when Bajaj and KTM first teamed up. A quick look at Pierer Mobility’s 2022 annual report shows that total annual motorcycle sales last year were 375,492. More than one factor was clearly at play over the past decade and a half since their partnership began, but that’s still clearly the direction that any international OEM wants to go in.
If India has been the world’s biggest motorcycle market for several years, China is hot on its heels—and KTM has been active there as well, with its longstanding partnership with CFMOTO. On July 6, 2023, Pierer Mobility and CFMOTO formally announced plans to strengthen their cooperation after nearly a decade of partnership so far. As a result, CFMOTO is increasing its stake in Pierer Mobility to two percent, and production capacity is increasing from 50,000 to 100,000 units annually.
“We work well together. We have known the Lai family as the majority shareholder of CFMOTO for more than ten years. The intensification of the joint venture and the cooperation in the areas of product strategy, product development, industrialization, and sales is a further development of our consistent cooperation and a further step to be able to serve the increasing market demand in China and the Asian region, as well as worldwide,” Pierer Mobility executive board member Hubert Trunkenpolz said in a statement.
Some More Middleweight Development Details Worth Noting
- 2017: The year that Triumph and Bajaj first entered their partnership.
- 2021: The year that Harley-Davidson and Hero MotoCorp first entered their partnership.
- Piaggio Group, the parent company of Aprilia, has had a long-standing presence in India and already produces its own two- and three-wheeled vehicles there, so it has not partnered with a local manufacturer on its own middleweight bike development.
- Per Triumph and Bajaj, the new TR platform bikes made for Triumph (so far, just the Speed 400 and the Scrambler 400 X) will be the only motorbikes to use this engine and platform. Unlike some partnership deals, Bajaj won’t be using this engine or platform for its own future bikes.
- That stands in contrast to the Harley/Hero deal, or similar deals of the recent past, such as the one between BMW Motorrad and TVS Motor Company, which produces the BMW G 310 R, BMW G 310 GS, BMW G 310 RR, and TVS Apache 310 RR on the same platform.