British-bred Royal Enfield speeds up in Asia

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By Justin Harper
Business reporter, BBC News

image copyrightGetty Images

legendCompany aims to increase share of motorcycle sales in Asia

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British-bred Royal Enfield is growing aggressively as it aims to tap the world’s largest motorcycle buying market, Asia.
One of the oldest bicycle brands in the world still in business has been owned by the Indian group Eicher since 1994 and has recorded strong sales in its local market.
It is now in the process of increasing its sales in Asia and recently announced its intention to open a new factory in Thailand.
Asian customers appreciate the style and heritage of its bikes, Vinod Dasari, managing director of Royal Enfield, told the BBC.
“We’re making a much better bike for not a lot more money,” he says.
“Plus, we design and produce bikes for the world, not just India”.
The new Thai factory is expected to be operational within the next 12 months and will be the company’s largest factory outside India.
image copyrightRoyal Enfield
legendContinental GT 650 de Royal Enfield – Ice Queen
It will serve as a hub for export to other countries in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Malaysia and China.
Mr. Dasari has ambitious plans to launch a new bike every quarter for the next three to five years.
“Asia-Pacific is a very exciting and important market for us, and our buyers tend to be ambitious, looking for something better. ”

  • Harley-Davidson will exit the world’s largest bicycle market

Winners and losers

Asia has a strong motorcycle tradition. India is the world’s largest motorcycle sales market, followed by Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Motorcycles are the easiest way to navigate the region’s often congested roads, especially in its larger cities.
Sales of Royal Enfield, which only manufactures motorcycles in the mid-size segment (250-750cc class), have grown 88% in the region over the past year.
Royal Enfield now belongs to the Indian group Eicherimage copyrightGetty Images
legendRoyal Enfield now belongs to the Indian group Eicher
However, not all motorcycle brands have been successful in Asia.
The American company Harley-Davidson recently announced its withdrawal from India, unlike the expansion of Royal Enfield.
“Harley-Davidson products were considered oversized for India. The infrastructure, top speeds and traffic discipline are not very suitable for safe high speed sailing, ”says Vivek Vaidya, transportation expert at Frost & Sullivan Consultants.
“They tried smaller engines, but it wasn’t their strong suit. Trying to face Royal Enfield in this segment was not that easy, ”he adds.
Royal Enfield, on the other hand, has products that are more convenient for bike buyers in the area, some say.
“People buy Royal Enfield machines based on their ease of use, simple design and classic vintage style,” says Scott Lukaitis, motorsport consultant.
“They provide the opportunity for new runners to enter the power sports community at a reasonable price without needing a lot of skill or mechanical knowledge to keep running. ”
Ask Mr. Dasari and he emphasizes Royal Enfield’s legacy as an attraction: “We don’t just sell a product, we sell an experience. ”

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Royal Enfield: a timeline

Royal Enfield Classic 500 Pegasus pays homage to the original "Flying chip"image copyrightGetty Images
legendA limited edition Royal Enfield Classic 500 Pegasus motorcycle was built in 2018 to pay homage to the “Flying Flea” of WWII
  • 1893. Originally a bicycle maker, Royal Enfield got its name from manufacturing parts for the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield
  • 1901. Produces its first motorized bicycles in Great Britain
  • 1914-18. During World War I, supplied motorcycles to the British, Belgian, French, American and Russian armies
  • 1932. Builds the legendary “Bullet” motorcycle, featuring the sloped “sloper” engine
  • 1939-45. Produced military motorcycles as well as bicycles, generators and antiaircraft guns during WWII – the most famous ‘Flying Flea’, for use by paratroopers and glider troops
  • 1960s. Cultural heyday of classic motorcycles, but many brands struggle, including Royal Enfield
  • 1970. ceases its activities in the United Kingdom, its Indian subsidiary resumes production
  • 1994. Indian company Eicher Motors acquires Enfield India, renaming it Royal Enfield Motors Limited
  • 2020. UK is still a key market – its Interceptor 650 is the best-selling medium-duty motorcycle
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Screenshot from Jay Leno's YouTube channel.image copyrightYoutube / Garage Jay Leno
legendJay Leno, former American cat host, is a fan of Royal Enfield
Next year marks Royal Enfield’s 120th anniversary since building its first motorcycle. Although India is still grappling with Covid-19, it has yet to announce any plans to celebrate this milestone.
As for the future of the Asian motorcycle industry in a post-pandemic world, many see continued growth.
“The general consensus is that the fear of infection can move people from shared transport to individual mobility. Therefore, the cheapest mode for rural areas is a motorbike, ”says Vaidya.

Related topics

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  • Thailand

  • Inde
  • Asia Pacific
  • Asia
  • Transport

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