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Harley revs up global play for the Street

MURALI GOPALAN | Updated on November 27, 2017 Published on December 18, 2014

Leisure biking Anoop Prakash, MD, Harley-Davidson India, believes that the brand continues to get younger in its appeal. S. SUBRAMANIUM

Haryana plant will soon ship out the Street to Asia-Pacific and China

It was in November 2013 when Harley-Davidson announced that it would produce the all-new Street in 500cc and 750cc versions. It was the first bike platform developed for young riders across the world and just not for markets in the West, as was the norm till then.

For India, the news was particularly significant as the Harley plant in Bawal, Haryana, would make one of the global platforms for the bike. Kansas City in the US would cater to the other.

On the map

Today, India is home to the Street 750 while the Bawal facility is the production hub for both models which are exported to countries across the world. Early this year, wholly-built bikes were shipped out from India to Spain, Portugal and Italy. This was quickly followed by consignments of the Street 750 and 500 to Japan, Australia and Indonesia.

According to Anoop Prakash, Managing Director of Harley-Davidson India, the following months will see more countries covered in the ASEAN region. This list will include Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. By the first half of 2015, the Street 750 will be shipped out to China where the iconic American bike maker is “growing rapidly”. In addition, Bawal will also meet the needs of potential Street buyers in the Middle-East and Africa through the year.

Consequently, Harley has increased local content of its India-made bikes as demand for the Street grows worldwide. The company works with a number of global suppliers which cater to a host of components for its diverse models.

More power

While the Bawal plant makes both the 500cc and 750cc models, Prakash reiterates that the Indian market will stay focused on the 750. “The Street 500 is not part of the foreseeable future. Our customers are quite clear about what they want from Harley-Davidson,” he says. Simply put, this translates into a higher powered motorcycle.

Prakash explains that there are offerings in the 500cc space which serve the market well. Harley, on the other hand, wants to be in “a space that works” with its customers. “We are happy to see people upgrade to a 750cc Harley from a 350cc or 500cc bike. This approach suits us just fine,” he says.

Yet, the 500 remains an “equally great motorcycle” though the Indian arm would like to focus on the 750 and take it further. Likewise, there are different dynamics at play across markets worldwide.

For instance, in Australia, the Street 500 has made a mark first because there are tiered licensing regulations.“When you get into motorcycling (in Australia), you have to start riding something which is 500cc or below to get a licence for a higher cc bike. Those kinds of regulations are different in different parts of the world,” Prakash says. In India, the Street 750 has made a difference for women riders with more of them riding in rallies and attending events.

“A lot of it has to do with the growth of the motorcycling culture and what we deliver as a lifestyle experience. It is about freedom and experience which is gender-neutral,” the Harley India chief says.

While the Street has played a big role in driving the company’s volumes in India this year, its launch timing was as critical. According to Prakash, it was the right time to deliver a product to a “market hungry for a 750”.

Motorcycle culture

“Had we delivered the Street in 2009, it may not have worked because leisure motorcycling had not set in as a culture. Today, it meets people’s needs not only from the viewpoint of affordability but also riding style, features etc,” he ads. With less than two weeks to go before 2014 draws to a close, Prakash and his team have reason to celebrate. Between mid-2010 and the end of last calendar, Harley had sold just over 4,000 units cumulatively. This number has been achieved during this year alone with the chart tipped to grow even further in the coming years as worldwide shipments increase.

While the overall bike market has been down lately, Prakash says Harley has a different guiding principle which is all about customer experience. “Our goal across our teams is to deliver a unique experience everyday,” he adds. This is where the regional rallies held through the year have helped meet this target.

The Harley brand, according to Prakash, continues to get younger (the average age group is 30-45 years) and this is where the Street has played a big role in attracting people. “We also have a young team across the company and are among the first manufacturers to have women on our shop floor,” he says.

Going forward, Harley plans to set up dealerships in Kozhikode, Lucknow, Guwahati, Coimbatore and Nagpur which will add to the present tally of 17 with Surat being the latest. It is in these relatively smaller centres where there is “an ambition and aspiration” that is stronger than big Indian cities

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Published on December 18, 2014
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