Benelli has big plans for its second innings in India with Adishwar Auto Ride, a subsidiary of the Hyderabad-based Mahavir Group. The company had already re-launched earlier models like the TNT 600i, TNT 300 and 302R in India and bolstered its line-up yesterday with the launch of the new TRK 500 and TRK 502X adventure bikes. The company also announced plans to launch at least five more motorcycles in India in 2019.
So far, all these bikes have been coming in as CKD kits, which are manufactured at the Benelli QJ factory in Wenling, China and assembled in the new facility set up by AARI in Telangana. However, the company is also working on localising its line-up to reduce costs and the first product to benefit from a significant level of localisation, will be the retro Imperiale 400, which rivals Royal Enfield’s bikes.
The Imperiale 400 sports classic 1950’s styling, with generous amounts of chrome and simple, retro features. The bike was first unveiled at EICMA 2017 and is clearly targeted at the Classic and Bullet range from Royal Enfield. This motorcycle was unveiled with a Euro-IV-compliant motor, but we have learnt that Benelli is currently developing a Euro-V/BS-VI compliant version of this engine, which is the unit the bike will have when it goes on sale in India. The single-cylinder, air-cooled engine currently makes 20.4hp at 5,500rpm and 28Nm at 3,500rpm.
Further still, AARI and Benelli are working on increasing the localised content on this motorcycle and it is possible we could see components like the wheels, tyres, brakes and electricals coming from India. Whether the frame, suspension and body-work will also be locally-sourced is unclear at the moment.
The Benelli Imperiale 400 features a 41mm telescopic fork and twin shock absorbers. Braking is taken care of by a 300mm front disc and a 240mm rear disc. As you can see, the specifications, most notably those of the engine, are akin to that of the Royal Enfield Classic 350 - a bike that will directly rival the Imperiale 400.
Even if the Imperiale 400 does receive a significant amount of localisation, it will be hard to match the price of the fully made-in-India Royal Enfield and a price tag of Rs 2 lakh plus (more on the lines on the Classic 500) is a realistic expectation. That being said, the Imperiale 400 will be the cheapest Benelli to go on sale in the country as the single cylinder TNT 250 is no longer on sale here.
If things go as per the plan with Benelli’s localisation efforts, expect to see the Imperiale launch by the end of the year, or in early 2020, certainly before the BS-VI deadline of April 1, 2020.