Shirish Kulkarni, chairman, DSK Motowheels, told sister publication Autocar Professional recently that the entire CKD (completely knocked down) operations were shifted from the Wai (near Satara) facility to the company-owned upcoming facility in Talegaon, approximately 50km from Pune, in January 2016.
This shift had become necessary since the company was facing capacity constraints at the Wai unit where it was assembling the Benelli and Hyosung bikes. Last heard in December, the capacity at the Wai unit was ramped up to 25 units a day from an initial 10 units a day when the company had started its operations four years ago.
In December last year, on the sidelines of the commercial launch of the Benelli TNT 25 in Pune, Kulkarni had said that his company had acquired 22 acres of land at Talegaon to set-up a full-fledged bike assembly facility.
The current assembly capacity at the Talegaon plant, which is under construction, is 350 units per month under its first phase. “We plan to set-up an assembly capacity of 50,000 units per year, in a single shift, under phase two. We are planning to officially inaugurate the plant by August-September 2016,” confirmed Kulkarni.
The company, which commercially launched five premium bikes under Italy’s Benelli brand in March 2015, added its sixth and the most affordable product – the 249cc Benelli TNT 25 – to its portfolio in December 2015. The TNT 25 was the first single-cylinder model from DSK Benelli, and it came with a starting price tag of Rs 1.68 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).
The naked-street Benelli TNT 25 holds strategic importance for the company as it not just consolidates Benelli’s positioning in the local market as a capable Italian motorcycle brand, but it also boosts the market reach for DSK Motowheels. Yhe bike maker plans to enter into several Tier II towns with this product.
Precisely, at the affordable end of the mid-sized bike segment, DSK Benelli stands as the only brand to offer a single-cylinder 249cc motorcycle (via TNT 25) as well as slightly bigger, twin-cylinder, 300cc motorcycle, (via TNT 300) in its local portfolio. The Benelli TNT 25, which potentially competes with KTM 200 Duke, Bajaj Pulsar RS200, Kawasaki’s Z250 and Mahindra Two Wheelers’ Mojo, is understood to substantially pep up the sales from the lower end for the company.
With its six-model portfolio, DSK Motowheels plans to sell 2,500 units under the Benelli brand via 15 dealerships by the end of March 2016. On the other hand, it aims to sell close to 1,500 units under its South Korean partner Hyosung via DSK Hyosung’s existing pan-India network of 35 dealerships during the ongoing fiscal.
Buzzing new product pipeline
The company currently retails a total of 12 bikes – six bikes (250cc-1,131cc) under the DSK Benelli brand and six (250cc-680cc) under the DSK Hyosung brand. Barring two Benelli models – 898cc TNT 899 and 1,131cc TNT R – all the other 10 models across both the brands can be categorised under the booming league of mid-size bikes.
That said, it has drawn up a plan to add at least eight-nine new models under its Italian and Korean partnerships in FY2016-17, and all these would be the mid-size bikes. Of these the company plans to add four new models and two updated versions of existing models within the umbrella of the DSK Benelli brand.
The four new models will be the faired version of TNT 300 called the Tornado 300; twin-cylinder, 500cc adventure-tourer TRK 502; single-cylinder, 249cc off-road bike BX250 Motard; and the Leoncino, which will be powered by a twin-cylinder, 500cc engine. The latter, along with the TRK 502, were unveiled by Benelli at the 2015 EICMA-Milan Motorcycle Show. While both garnered substantial response at the show, the Leoncino’s highlight is its attractive design language.
It is to be noted that while all these upcoming bikes will be assembled at DSK Motowheels’ new facility at Talegaon, they are understood to have the potential of considerably boosting their present sales once they hit the retail showrooms.
While the Tornado 300 will compete with the Kawasaki Ninja 300 as pricing will play an important role, the BX250, which is meant for off-road and on-road applications, will share its engine with the current bestseller TNT 25 thereby giving the company benefits of engine and component sharing in the assembly operations.
On the other hand, the Benelli TRK 502 could play an important role in expanding the adventure-touring segment within the class of mid-size bikes as a number of industry experts estimate that the model offers the right mix of engine displacement and power delivery. However, its go-to-market price and service backup will be crucial contributing factors to its success in the growing market.
Aimed at the urban riders, the easy-to-ride, multipurpose Benelli Leoncino is expected to be the second model in the upcoming Scrambler category, which is known to be created by Ducati’s 803cc Scrambler model. Even Triumph Motorcycles has brought Scrambler-like custom options on its Bonneville platform for Indian buyers.
This also leaves industry analysts with an open question – whether Ducati will bring its twin-cylinder, 399cc, 41bhp Scrambler Sixty2 to India to boost its sales. They think that there could be a potential market among urban buyers, albeit the demand for the existing Ducati Scrambler and the upcoming Benelli Leoncino, once it reaches the showrooms next year, will bear the answer.
DSK Benelli will also bring the ABS updated version of the existing four-cylinder, 600cc models – the adventure-tourer TNT 600GT and the naked-street TNT 600i later this year.
Giving the timeline for the upcoming Benelli models, Kulkarni said, “The Tornado 300 and TRK 502 are expected to come in July and September respectively later this year. We are also studying the impact of the TNT 25, which will help us decide if we continue with the TNT 300 or bring the TNT 400 to the market. This is not confirmed yet. However, among other confirmed models are the BX250, which is planned for November-December 2016, and the Leoncino for the first quarter next year.”
New Hyosungs in the offing
The company plans to ramp up its existing portfolio under the DSK Hyosung brand. This will include bringing the GT300R and GV300 to replace the existing GT250R and GV250, also known as Aquila 250. The Aquila 250 is one of the bestselling models from the brand, and was launched in 2014 Auto Expo.
Both these incoming models will be powered by the updated twin-cylinder engine with displacement in the range of 275cc-300cc. While the GT650R is also planned to be updated, a new single-cylinder, 449cc model – GD450 – is also confirmed for India.
The upcoming additions will mark new models from Hyosung after more than two years, and this can be attributed to the recent management changes at Hyosung’s global headquarters.
“The GV300 is expected to come by July-August this year. The GT300R and the updated GT650R are expected to hit the showrooms during the last quarter of this year. The naked GD450 is scheduled for next year,” confirmed Kulkarni. Clearly, with a bigger facility in place, DSK Motowheels’ aggressive plans for the maturing market in the upcoming fiscal are justified.
Amit Panday (Autocar Professional)