Opinion: Who has the last laugh?

    Triumph’s booking numbers were expectedly good, but Harleys were even better.

    Published on Oct 07, 2023 07:00:00 AM

    30,485 Views

    Opinion: Who has the last laugh?

    What a phenomenal few months it’s been for the motorcycling space in India – and we still have a few months to go! The big-ticket highlights so far have been the Triumph and Harley launches and what their success means for the industry.

    Having attended both launches one day after the next, I was first-hand witness to the surprise at Harley’s pricing followed by the shock at Triumph’s. The internet in its usually calm and measured way immediately crowned the Triumph Speed 400 the ‘Harley-killer’ and the memes came through thick and fast. And yet we all know how that turned out.

    I received my education in what an incredibly strong value the Harley-Davidson badge commands in India about ten years back. It was on a ride on some big touring bikes through the depths of interior northern India, and I had never seen such awe and admiration showered over a motorcycle before. The kind of crowds the Harleys were drawing would have put even the wildest superbikes to shame. 

    When you think about it, a country that adores its big and easy riding REs would naturally revere a big Harley. This is why I’ve been convinced from the beginning that the Harley X440 is the bike that has the biggest potential to give RE something to worry about – so long as Hero does a good job with supply and creating a quality sales experience. And sure enough, Harley claims to have received 'over 25,000' bookings in a month. You know who else sells over 25,000 bikes a month? The Classic 350.

    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. This is just the initial wave of euphoria and Hero/Harley haven’t delivered a single bike yet. They have a huge mountain to climb and no one is going to be destroying RE’s market share for quite some time. In the meantime, we can analyse what Harley’s gigantic booking numbers mean. 

    Primarily, I believe they prove that the Triumph’s price was too low. The Rs 2.33 lakh (ex-showroom) price is awesome for the average enthusiast, but from a business standpoint, Bajaj is probably making very little on these bikes. Moreover, the Speed 400 is surely negatively impacting Bajaj’s other products like the 250 KTMs and Dominars that are priced very similarly.

    Meanwhile, Harley says that over 80 percent of their bookings are for the top model, which was priced at Rs 2.8 lakh. Clearly, the customer was willing to pay for the right product.

    On a more positive note, the hope is that both bikes will expand the market. Sales numbers typically plummet above the Rs 2 lakh price point and I’d love to see these bikes expand that limit to the Rs 2.5 lakh-2.8 lakh mark. That will mean great things for the market in general. 

    It would seem that despite the infinite wisdom on the internet, Hero and Harley-Davidson are having the last laugh – for now. As for Royal Enfield, well, they don’t seem too perturbed – the new Bullet 350’s pricing didn’t have much of the aggression that was expected in response to the new threats. RE continues to have a quiet chuckle in the background while raking it in – and for a business, that’s always the best sense of humour.

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