2020 will be a year to remember, but instead of talking about the obvious low points, let’s take a look back at the highlights in the two-wheeler space. Here’s our list of the top moments of the year that go beyond the usual vehicle launches. Starting in no particular order:
EVs gain momentum.
The last few years have seen a flood of Chinese EVs rebranded and sold in our market as Indian products. This year, however, saw two new EVs from mainstream manufacturers go on sale - the Bajaj Chetak and the TVS iQube. Both have been designed and developed in house, but unfortunately both are only available in Bengaluru so far and COVID has created production issues for the Bajaj.
Meanwhile, Ather Energy has gained momentum this year with the launch of the impressive 450X that replaces its original 450. More importantly, Ather has finally started expanding its network and will be in a total of 27 cities by Q1 2021.
New alliances forged
The much discussed Bajaj-Triumph alliance was finally formalised in January this year. The two companies will co-develop a range of mid-capacity models ranging from 200-700cc with the first bikes slated to cost less than Rs 2-lakh. Bajaj will also take over the Triumph distribution activities in India at a later stage.
In April, TVS announced that it acquired the iconic, but troubled British company, Norton and a month later Ola Electric announced that it had bought out a Netherlands-based EV start-up named Etergo. Ola has big plans for India and has most recently announced that it will be investing Rs 2,400 crore into an EV manufacturing plant at Chennai that will have an annual capacity of ten lakh units.
Later in the year, Hero MotoCorp announced a deal with Harley-Davidson to take over its India operations. This came a couple of months after Harley revealed that it was shutting its wholly-owned business in India, including the manufacturing plant in Bawal, Haryana. Hero will take over the Harley sales and service network and will also co-develop future mid-capacity motorcycles with the American brand.
Most recently, Classic Legends, who own the rights to the BSA name, revealed that it was going to assemble BSA motorcycles in the UK - petrol and electric - from next year onwards. If you’re wondering why the company is not doing that in India instead, click here.
Royal Enfield tops UK sales charts
In June, the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 became the best-selling motorcycle in the UK. The sales numbers were relatively miniscule compared to what we see in India with 196 units sold that month, but the implications are huge. It must be at least 70 years, if not more, since Royal Enfield was last at the top of the British sales charts and while the size of the numbers isn’t impressive, this is a clear sign that Royal Enfield’s newer motorcycles are being well received in mature motorcycling markets.
New platforms born
There were plenty of exciting motorcycles launched this year, but 2020 also saw the birth of new and highly anticipated platforms. Things began with the KTM 390 Adventure, which has more recently spawned the KTM 250 Adventure. Then, in late September, Honda took the wraps off its awaited Royal Enfield rival in the form of the new CB350, and this platform will undoubtedly birth more variants.
But the most important platform of the year was saved for last, when Royal Enfield finally revealed its brand new 350cc platform in the new Meteor 350. This platform will underpin future models like the next gen Classic 350, among others, so this is a make-or-break moment for the company. You can check out our review of Meteor 350, or click here to see how it fares against its rivals.
Post COVID recovery
The year began on a weak note before the pandemic descended upon us, something evident in the poor showing of two-wheeler manufacturers at the 2020 Indian Auto Expo. Nevertheless, after a few months of unprecedented challenges, the industry bounced back better than many expected and performed well in the festive season.
The next few months will undoubtedly be difficult for the two-wheeler industry, but it's a more positive end to the year 2020 than was originally feared.
What were your two-wheeler highlights of the year? Let us know in the comments below