Auto focus

Finding the right partner for Harley in India

Murali Gopalan | Updated on April 30, 2020 Published on April 30, 2020

Perhaps a surprise will emerge in the form of a Japanese brand

Think of an iconic motorcycle brand and Harley Davidson is generally on top-of-recall. There was a time when it was the monarch of all it surveyed, especially in the US, its home market, but things have changed dramatically since.

Today, Harley is no longer the formidable entity that it used to be with its leadership team keen on finding new riders overseas. The loyal Harley commuter in the US is a fast diminishing community and the company is naturally keen to target a new generation of buyers in Asia and Europe.

Naturally, this is not going to be easy since this will mean carving up a competitive cost structure that can help woo riders in these price-sensitive markets. This is what prompted Harley to conceive of the Street 500 and 750 as new motorcycle options in these markets but they did not quite live up to expectations.

US President Donald Trump has constantly brought up the Harley example in his tirade against tariffs, especially in India. While there is no disputing the high levy, it is not as if this has been the singular obstacle to Harley in this part of the world.

The company has constantly been found wanting in after-sales service and customer support even while there is a diehard loyal riding community in India that swears by the Harley brand. The resurgent Asia plan involves rolling out competitively priced midsize bikes and Harley recently announced a tie-up with China’s QJ group to make 350cc motorcycles.

This plan will, however, not extend to India, where the American motorcycle maker is still keen on finding a local partner to take the story forward. This will mean scouting for someone who brings to the table economies of scale and the most likely candidate seems Hero MotorCorp, which has long parted ways with Honda and would be open to a new ally.

All this still remains in the speculative domain even while it is near certain that a Harley-Royal Enfield partnership is unlikely given that neither will benefit from the deal largely on issues of commonality.

Perhaps, Harley will pull out a rabbit from the hat and go in for an unconventional alliance with a Japanese two-wheeler maker for India and ASEAN. This would mean choosing from Suzuki, Honda and Yamaha or even a long shot like Kawasaki. It also remains to be seen if the US will take kindly to Harley’s partnership with the QJ group given the growing animosity against China in the ongoing pandemic. The administration has made its distaste of China quite clear and, assuming he returns to power later this year, Trump is quite likely to prevail upon Harley to call this off.

Published on April 30, 2020

A letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.