June 12, 2020, was the first time in nearly three months that I was back on a motorcycle. The first few hours were nerve-wracking, but by the end of a typical 14-hour shoot day, I returned home drenched, exhausted and oh-so-happy. Still, life is far from back to normal, and all this unnatural free time has given us plenty of time to think. What I’ve been ruminating on recently is that motorcycles have become too damn expensive. Forget COVID-19, I say the used bike industry is in for a much longer-term boom because new motorcycles just cost too much.
We’re all aware of how multiple government regulations and tax hikes over the past two years have forced a sharp rise in prices. Still, I was in for a small shock when Firoze told me that the BS6 RTR 200 we road-tested costs a little over Rs 1.5 lakh on road. Rs 1.5-lakh for an RTR 200? Has the world gone mad?
Since then, I’ve been looking at motorcycle prices more intently. For example, the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro will cost you over Rs 18-lakh on road in Mumbai. I remember a time not too long ago when you could get an entry-level BMW R 1200 GS, or a Ducati Multistrada 1200 for just a little more.
To be fair to the big bike businesses, they have massive import duties followed by crippling state taxes to deal with. Maharashtra’s and Karnataka’s policies are particularly punishing on big bikes, with some of the highest registration charges across the country. This might just be me, but this greedy rush to tax-tax-tax seems a little shortsighted. After all, won’t a more reasonable tax rate encourage larger sales numbers in the long run, which will result in greater tax collection? I’m no economist, but that just seems like good, logical sense.
Either way, let’s not blame it all on the government. Six years ago, I bought my KTM 390 Duke for Rs 2.08 lakh on road. Today, the new version costs Rs 3.12 lakh - that’s a 50 percent price hike! And let’s save the usual excuses of ABS regulations or the expense of fuel injection systems for this one, because the original 390 Duke had both. Inflated tax rates are partly to blame, but there’s no hiding from the fact that Bajaj has subtly repositioned the pricing of the entire KTM range over the years, and we’ve been happy to pay along.
This is all fine and dandy, until you get blindsided by a pandemic and most people tighten their purse strings right up – of course, there will always be the occasional loony who’ll go out and buy their first big bike, but that’s another story. The concise end to my rambling is that bikes have gotten too expensive, and regulations mean that most manufacturers can’t do squat about it. Looks like it’s a great time to be in the used bike business.