KYMCO is a name many in India haven’t heard of. But that doesn’t mean it's a brand not worth knowing. So let's begin with that.
Who is KYMCO?
KYMCO or Kwang Yang Motor Co is the biggest two-wheeler brand in Taiwan, a pro-scooter market, so much so that you hardly see any motorcycles or step-throughs on the streets of Taipei. KYMCO is also a well-known name in Southeast Asia, but it is not as big as the Japanese giants in these markets. However, it does quite well in Europe, where it is the fourth largest scooter brand overall and is particularly strong in markets like Spain, Italy and France. KYMCO’s product line-up consists of everything from traditional scooters and step-throughs to premium maxi-scooters, as well as ATVs and side-by-sides, and even a few small-capacity motorcycles. More recently, KYMCO took the wraps off its new IONEX EV solution and the new Many EV scooter that is the first model under the IONEX umbrella. You can read about that here. So, here's the next big question.
What took them so long?
More interesting, from the Indian context, is that chairman Allen Ko just announced the company’s plans to enter the Indian market within the next three years. This begs the question, if KYMCO is such a big name internationally, how could they have ignored our market? After all, scooters have been hot property in India for some years now and the temperature is only getting higher and higher. When we asked Ko this, he said the company has been looking at India for a number of years now, nearly two decades actually. In fact, he has made a number of visits to India to meet local manufacturers and get a first-hand feel for the market. But it's only now that the company has felt the time is right, and the fact that they’ve taken this long validates a message Ko is very clear about – KYMCO is not in it to get involved in the numbers game. Of course, you also cannot discount the fact that ours is a thoroughly difficult market to make an impact in – if you don't have the right products, at the right time and the right price.
What kind of products can we expect?
Before we address the actual products themselves, let's talk about how they will arrive in our market. At the moment, KYMCO is keen to find a local partner and this is the company's top priority, despite the fact that Ko is aware that most JVs have had a poor record in our country. However, it seems quite committed to the three-year timeline and says that it will come into India on its own if an appropriate partner cannot be found.
And that brings us back to the products. While the company says no fixed strategy has been decided yet, it is clear on the fact that it wants to go premium and will offer a mix of EVs and maxi-scooters. This is well in line with the company’s plan to have ten new electric products under its IONEX umbrella in the next three years and its target to sell half a million EVs in the same time period.
A glance at KYMCO’s current line-up reveals a number of premium 125cc offerings and even a full-size maxi-scooter with a fuel injected 125cc heart called the X-town 125i. Of course, they might offer larger-capacity machines as well, to truly differentiate from the crowd. Here too, there a numerous options like the single-cylinder 300cc and 400cc Xcting models and even the new, twin-cylinder AK550. More will certainly debut over the next couple of years. The same applies to the EVs. There will be a number of new ones on sale by 2021, so it's early to speculate here.
What about dedicated models, developed specially for India?
KYMCO is no stranger to the fact that India is a notoriously hard market to break into. This is probably why they’ve taken the wise decision to avoid being sucked into the allure of the enormous sales numbers India generates Bigger companies have attempted this and failed – some repeatedly. So, while it recognises the value of having a dedicated product designed and developed for our market, KYMCO admits that this will take a bit too long. Hence, the first products to go on sale will come from the existing product portfolio. But, for now, it's too early to tell whether these first products will come as a CBU (something they’re trying to avoid), or whether they will be locally assembled, or if full local manufacturing is possible right from the start. What KYMCO is saying now is that they’re certainly interested in eventually using India as an international manufacturing base.
Slow and steady
That’s the game plan KYMCO is going for, and you shouldn’t expect an extravagant, screamer of an entrance into our market. Instead, the company stresses on the fact that it will take this one step at a time. Dedicated products for India are certainly on the wishlist and that is why KYMCO is so keen to find a local partner, so as to better understand the requirements of our market. But as of now, the main focus appears to be on deciding what its strategy for India will be and we’ll only hear more as 2021 draws closer.
Either way, going by the precious little that has been divulged at this price point, KYMCO is in for a very steep hill to climb. Cost-effectiveness is key in India, not just in terms of how affordable the products are to buy, but also in how much they offer for the price. Manufacturing is going to be vital towards achieving that competitiveness and three years is not a lot of time to set up a full local operation. One thing that might go for them is that our EV market will be a little more mature by that time and will have more players in the field. Given that KYMCO is already keen to embrace the EV business, a relatively premium offering from the IONEX family, priced within reason, could find a footing in our market. Let us know what you think in the comments below.