Two-wheelers revving up to beat the slowdown

Murali Gopalan New Delhi | Updated on March 13, 2018 Published on January 03, 2012

The Delhi Auto Expo has every constituent of the auto industry right from cars and two-wheelers to commercial vehicles and auto ancillaries crammed tightly under one roof called Pragati Maidan.

Cars, quite predictably, are right at the top of the pecking order from the viewpoint of the media and crowds that throng the venue every two years. This is understandable given the brands that are displayed from the stables of some of the world's top heavyweights.

Tough time ahead

Ironically, these are not the best of times for India's automobile industry and even while Auto Expo 2012 has a record number of participants, it does not take away the fact that the going will be tough for the next 12-18 months. However, two-wheelers have had a brisk run this fiscal and the overall numbers could be a little over 14 million units, a growth of 15 per cent over 2010-11.

Even while a slowdown looms large, two-wheeler makers are not as despondent as their counterparts in the automobile space. Market leader, Hero MotoCorp, is actually quite upbeat and will look at sustaining its momentum of over five lakh bikes and scooters each month through 2012-13. The year could also see it laying the groundwork for its fourth plant, tipped to be in the South. Hero MotoCorp, which recently parted ways with Honda after 26 years, is clearly determined to pull out all stops and retain its leadership position.

Bajaj Auto, which plans to kick off 2012-13 with a new KTM bike quickly followed by a refreshed Pulsar and Discover line-up, is as bullish on its growth prospects. It hopes to wrap up this fiscal with over 4.5 million bikes and three-wheelers and could be looking at over 15 per cent growth in the following year.

Quite unlike Hero MotoCorp, whose focus is largely the domestic market, Bajaj is keen on increasing the component of its international business which is nearly 40 per cent of its overall sales today. Countries such as Africa have been identified as the growth drivers of the future and the company is also eyeing Brazil where its KTM alliance will help make a dent in the market.

Honda was the monarch of all it surveyed in its joint venture with the Hero group. The recent divorce resulted in ceding five million units annually to its former partner but the Japanese automaker is determined to bounce back strongly through its 100 per cent arm, HMSI (Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India) which is already the market leader in gearless scooters.

The company's second plant in Rajasthan has already helped monthly volumes inch towards the two lakh unit mark and this will be enhanced further to 2.5 lakh bikes and scooters from April 2012. HMSI will also go flat out with its third facility in Karnataka scheduled for commissioning next year and indications are that two more plants are also on the anvil in the western region.

Honda's target

Honda wants India to be its biggest two-wheeler base globally, ahead of Indonesia and Vietnam, which means the next few years could see a lot of action.

TVS Motor has been doing steady volumes but the recent surge by HMSI could throw up an interesting tug-of-war in the coming months. The company has been tight-lipped on its product plans though the industry grapevine suggests that there could be some big technology initiatives happening.

Suzuki and Yamaha are as determined to push the envelope aggressively while Piaggio will launch its Vespa range in April.

Gearless scooters have been growing rapidly and manufacturers are increasingly making a beeline for this product category. Two-wheeler makers are clearly determined not to let the slowdown dampen their spirits.


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Published on January 03, 2012
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