Siddhartha Lal believes it is important for his company to keep abreast of rapidly changing mobility dynamics across the world.
“Mobility is going to change because we have so many different factors that will make this happen. Consumer habits are changing and young people today are not necessarily in the ownership cycle and are more in the usage (cycle),” says the CEO of Royal Enfield, the motorcycle business unit of Eicher Motors.
While all these changes are not going to happen overnight, the Bullet brand manufacturer still thinks it makes sense to be ahead of the curve. As Lal says, the world has become predominantly “more city” with most metros now bursting at their seams. This is especially true across Asia where the realities of urbanisation are seeing people migrate from towns to cities in search of jobs.
Additionally, there are “enormous changes happening” in the automotive arena with connectivity and electrification leading the way. “So, we are working on all this and these are totally new thoughts and different ideas. We are going to work on a clean sheet of paper and don’t want to worry about our legacy and current business,” says Lal.
As he admits, electrification is “certainly a very likely outcome in our industry” and though it is not going to be 100 per cent, it will at least be a “major part in the long-term”. And while Royal Enfield could see itself an innovator in terms of growing the middleweight motorcycle segment across different parts of the world, this does not extend to electrification.
“We want to see what others are doing and start having different ideas in harnessing the power of electric mobility,” says Lal. The objective is to then try and use it in ways that are not necessarily the same form factor adopted in the conventional internal combustion engine.
On the face of it, it may not really be a big deal in stripping the engine of a Classic 350 and replacing it with an electric powertrain. This is the strategy being adopted by many carmakers taking the same form factor. However, this is not what Royal Enfield is keen on replicating with its motorcycle range.
In any case, all this is not going to happen for the next 10-15 years, which gives Lal and his team enough time to put their thinking caps on and plot the roadmap ahead. “We will see where the market is heading and understand the technologies a lot better. We will then look at hundreds of different options before making a major direction change,” he says.
It is also in this context that the company’s recently inaugurated tech centre in the UK will have a big role to play in this important transition, while coordinating with the R&D think-tank in Chennai. This is where Royal Enfield produces its motorcycles in three plants, which have a combined capacity of nearly a million units annually.
For the moment, the company is giving top priority to the imminent rollout of its 650cc twins, the Interceptor and Continental, in April 2018. These will first be retailed in Europe before making their way into India and other parts of the world. “We have a very strong pipeline over the next five to 10 years on our existing petrol technologies where there are many exciting things happening,” adds Lal.
As he puts it, the Royal Enfield of today represents a strong product strategy organisation, which understands markets around the world and is able to synthesise all that in a single product requirement document. “That becomes the starting point of any product like the 650 twins, for instance,” says Lal.
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