Hero MotoCorp continues to have its sight set on the global markets. The company plans to target export markets through its technologically advanced midsize motorcycle model(s) that are expected to be in early stages of development.
The company had plans of making a possible foray into the lucrative markets of Europe and North America, which had to be postponed due to Eric Buell Racing’s (EBR) untimely bankruptcy. Talking to our sister publication Autocar Professional recently, Markus Braunsperger, chief technology officer at Hero MotoCorp, said: “We plan to look at the category of motorcycles with engine displacement of more than 250cc, which will give us an opportunity gradually in India but mainly in the global markets. The premium motorcycle segment will play a key role for us there because if you look at the (developed) export markets for 250cc-300cc and above motorcycles, over 95 percent of such models are sold in the global markets and not in India. However, this segment is growing in India, and I see that this will gain more traction in the coming years.”
Giving his point of view on developing big bikes, Braunsperger further added: “If we do it the right way, and if we do have the patience to keep it growing the right way, then there is no limit. This will take time as you cannot expect a business sense to come out for a 1000cc super sportsbike for Hero in India.” The senior official, who is hopeful of midsize motorcycles gaining traction in India, wants to grow Hero MotoCorp’s product portfolio carefully without losing connect with the company’s existing class of customers, and yet attracting the premium customers to its stable through its superior products. The company, which had displayed two midsize models at the 2014 Auto Expo – 250cc HX250R and parallel-twin, 620cc Hastur – had showcased an all-new concept named XF3R at the 2016 Auto Expo. The XF3R was a design concept based on a 250cc-300cc naked street motorcycle. An official release from Hero MotoCorp on new unveils at the mega event last month stated “a combination of power and aggression, dynamic stance and grounded core, the XF3R exudes a modern and cutting edge character, giving it an edge over other bikes in this segment. This balance of form and function is the essence of the XF3R, which will be reflected in future products in this category.”
Explaining the intricacies of maintaining the connect between the aggressively-styled upcoming models and the current customers (common men who purchase fuel efficient mass commuter motorcycles), Braunsperger mentioned that, “We have to expand the brands for the customers, who need to follow this journey. This is the reason why we came up with the styling-design concept – the XF3R – because we wanted to display our future styling-design language. This is a tricky thing because on one side the Splendor customer has to see this as an aspiration even if he cannot afford this, and for those who can afford this need to be proud to see this (XF3R) as a product from Hero in terms of the product package, competitiveness, and status with reference to the competition. So this is something that we have to explore not to disconnect our commuter customers and to have premium customers feel proud of what he is sitting on at the same time.”
Interestingly, Hero MotoCorp also showcased the HX250, dropping the ‘R’ from HX250R at the event last month. This could be understood as one of many efforts to change the identity of the popular concept model.
The EBR setback
While the company is busy recuperating from the unfortunate development it faced, experts say it is more important to learn fundamental lessons and move on. A number of industry analysts Autocar Professional spoke to seem to stay confident of Hero MotoCorp’s market dominance in the coming times too, thanks to its growing focus on establishing research and development capabilities and the premium motorcycle segment.
Citing a clear direction for Hero, the ex-BMW Motorrad official said: “The decision with EBR was not taken by us, and we are facing the situation. I am fully convinced that wherever we do on a product level, we will have to control it in lieu to our leadership role, our competencies and not the opposite where the other company we align with tells us how to do and what to do. So we are in a clear reverse mode right now. When it comes to limits in terms of competencies and resources – all the automotive companies run into resource crunch where they cannot ramp up or keep up with the pace of the moving industry.” “Selectively, we will have engineering partners based on their capabilities, capacities and specialisation. And, in the meanwhile, we will also build up our capabilities where we can come up from a clean sheet to mass production with a completely new vehicle and new platform. To get a bike into mass production is not just about the R&D capability, it is also about the capability of our suppliers, our in house manufacturing and how we collaborate. So looking into the commuter/deluxe segment with the Splendor iSmart 110, we are confident that we are already at that level,” he further added.
According to him, besides assessing its own R&D and manufacturing capabilities, the company is also evaluating the capabilities of its suppliers for building premium motorcycles beyond 150cc.