Bajaj Auto Ltd plans to display two to three new motorcycle models at the Auto Expo early 2014 in New Delhi, of which at least one will hit the market during the year, according to a senior executive of the company.

He said even as the economic slowdown and the high interest rates have affected the pace of upgradation from entry level bikes to performance (sports) bikes in the country, a new category of ‘super sports’ bikes is emerging in India.

Speaking to Business Line on the sidelines of the ‘Pulsar StuntMania’ organised in Coimbatore last evening by Bajaj Auto, Shyam Sundar Narayan, Marketing Manager, 2 Wheelers, BAL, Pune, said the sports bike segment was defined as bikes in the 150cc + category and BAL had a dominant 47 per cent market share in this segment across all manufacturers in India.

It has a range of Pulsar models in the 150 cc to 220 cc capacity range. He said 51 per cent of bikers opting for this performance bike segment were “upgraders” seeking to buy motorcycles that had greater power and to demonstrate that they had arrived (in terms of social status). But as inflation, and consequently interest rates, were ruling high, the buyers were seen either deferring their purchases or opting for vehicles with less power. Still, BAL was able to hold on to its market share of 47 per cent in this performance bike segment of 150cc + category.

He said BAL plans to unveil a new line of ‘Pulsars' in the forthcoming Auto Expo which he expected would excite the bike enthusiasts and revive buying interest in this segment. The market was also witnessing emergence of a “super sports segment” bike category which was higher than Pulsar with capacity of up to 390cc. He said that while this segment may not be reflecting strongly in numbers, in terms of sentiment, new launches were happening and the “public is aware of sports segment and it has been growing overall”.

Shyam Sundar expected the next year “to be good for us”. Putting the size of the sports segment bike at about 1.30 lakh units a month across all models and manufacturers, he said this segment has “almost been stagnant” for the last one year. He said one of the reasons could be high interest rates and as it was a high value purchase, people are deferring it because of the tough economic scenario. He said the super sports segment bikes cost Rs 1.30 lakh to Rs 3 lakh and their monthly sales averaged 7,000-10,000 units. Their capacity was in the 150cc to 390cc range but the nature of these bikes was different and hence the high price-tag. While growth might not be there in the sports segment, there was a lot of interest in this segment.

Asked whether he saw any recovery in the higher end of the bike segment, he said the sports segment enjoyed a 17+ per cent share of the entire motorcycle industry in the country and said a `lot of the pioneering work' has happened in Pulsar that was a market leader and he only saw this growing. He said BAL’s aim was to “bring high performance biking to the youth of India” by making such bikes affordable through the Pulsar range. He said the company will “play in this segment right now” (150cc to 220cc range) and two to three new models might be unveiled in the auto expo. While not all the new displays would hit the market immediately, BAL plans “one big Pulsar launch” next year, possibly 5-6 months after the Auto Expo, he said.

On keeping the KTM brand separate despite holding significant stake in KTM, the Austrian sports bike company, Shyam Sundar said Bajaj has 47 + per cent stake in KTM but it remained a separate brand with its exclusive showrooms in India. These premium super sports bikes come at different price points and offerings.

To highlight the status of Bajaj Pulsar as a sports bike brand, the “Ghost Ryderz' team from Kerala performed a series of stunts/ manoeuvres riding Pulsar bikes at the show in Coimbatore.