Wanted! A partner to manufacture lightweight motorcycles for Harley-Davidson in India

Last Updated: Tue, Aug 07, 2018 18:27 hrs
Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump in a file photo, posing with two Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the foreground.

Indian markets have usually been the fancy of everyone's attention. Be it to selling smartphones or motorcycles.

Milwaukee-based Harley Davidson known for its heavy touring motorcycles, is searching for a domestic partner in India. One, who could partner in manufacturing and distribution of lightweight motorcycles- 250 - 500 CC precisely.

An official Harley-Davidson spokesperson was quoted in a report saying that the company had plans to introduce 250 - 500 CC motorcycles in India. HD views India as the world's large two-wheeler market. India is a better geographical expansion considering HD sales in US have been falling on a quarterly basis.

An industry report says that Asia's third largest economy is expected to witness a 25% growth in sales of 250- 500 CC motorcycles through 2021.

"We realise that we as a company have been very focused on large heavyweight motorcycles and our expertise in the 250-500cc space needs to grow,” Marc McAllister, vice president of product portfolio at Harley-Davidson, was quoted in a Reuters report.

"We are looking for a strategic alliance that can help us grow through understanding the product, understanding the consumer, understanding the assembly," he said.

That could mean Harley will not necessarily make the new motorcycles at its own facility in India, and may instead use a local partner, McAllister said.

He refrained from revealing names of current partners or even names of companies that Harley may be keen to partner with.

At the moment, Harley sells its range of 700 CC and above motorcycles through its dealers in India. Sales have been positive, in double digits, a far cry from US consumption, where growth has been recorded in single digits.

The last time Harley was in the news reports was when US President Donald Trump criticized the cult brand of moving production to Europe with a view to avoid retaliatory tariffs amid the trade dispute between US and Europe.

India which has been viewed by such foreign brands as a lucrative market, is also a terrible terrain for first time entrants. Triumph and BMW, entered on the back of partnerships with Bajaj Auto and TVS Motors respectively.

Although the consumer demand has been growing, India has mostly been a cost-competitive market and lightweight bikes have been considered as lower-margin products.

Rajiv Bajaj of Bajaj Auto after learning of Harley Davidson's keenness to manufacture 250 CC motorcycles referred to it as Pipsquek ( a person considered to be insignificant, especially because they are small or young).

Rajiv Bajaj said he never underestimated his competitors, but learning from his own mistakes made him believe that the minute a brand steps out of its 'Laxman Rekha' it ended on a very thin ice. He said, "to me, quite frankly, being a big loud motorcycle is intrinsic to Harley. A 250 cc is pipsqueak and I am not very worried about that right now," in an interview to CNBC TV18.

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