Yamaha sees new global role for India in BS VI era

Murali Gopalan | Updated on: Feb 07, 2019

Japan headquarters could end up collaborating more closely on product development

Its market share may be little to write home about in India, but Yamaha remains upbeat about its prospects here.

Beyond launching premium products as part of its new business focus, the company believes India has plenty to offer once Bharat Stage VI norms become a reality in April 2020. Yasuo Ishihara, Managing Director, Yamaha Motor Research & Development India, says the country could just end up playing a far bigger global role in the coming years.

“Gradually, we want to take India to the centre of global R&D because, as everybody, knows this is a huge market. Model characteristics are also not so unique now and together with some quality progammes, we can export India-made models to other countries,” he said in a recent interview.

However, Ishihara clarified that all this was still a work in progress and it would take a while before the script becomes a reality. Ideally, if everything goes according to plan, headquarters in Japan will collaborate even more closely with India for product development.

At one level, this is but natural considering that Yamaha’s key markets in the ASEAN region have reached a level of maturity and really cannot grow rapidly in the coming years. Whatever volumes accrue will be incremental since the buyer base in countries like Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines is a lot smaller than India.

And even while it is literally at the lower end of the scale here in terms of numbers and market share, Yamaha knows that an annual production number of over 20 million units is significant. What is even more encouraging is that the pace of growth will sustain for a good part of the following decade even while it is up against stiff competition in the form of Hero, Honda, TVS, Bajaj, Royal Enfield and Suzuki.

The onset of BS VI could also give Yamaha a big technological edge over some of its rivals. “I am not at all worried about BS VI and we are aggressively pursuing localisation to be ready for 2020. This is a big jump (from BS IV) and there needs to be greater accuracy for each component,” says Ishihara.

In addition, quality maintenance level becomes very important and this is where Yamaha Japan has been “supporting us extensively”. The R&D chief admits that costing will be a huge challenge with BS VI, especially in a market like India, which is extremely price-sensitive.

“Yamaha, fortunately, has long experience in fuel injection systems. We can leverage this well for India along with cost reduction measures and localisation,” says Ishihara.

Between now and April 2020, the company plans to carefully choose models that will be part of the transition. Some could debut some months ahead while others will stick to the April deadline. Likewise, there could be models whose BS VI avatars could wait even longer.

Logically, the top performers will get off the mark first though Ishihara said it was too early to comment at this stage. Japan will also provide inputs on this decision and it is fair to assume that there will be a slew of new motorcycles and scooters planned for launch in the BS VI era.

By this time, engineering and R&D competencies in India will have improved enormously to be able to cater to larger global programmes for Yamaha. The savings on costs will be a big help in realising the goals for the company’s medium-term management plan, which was made public a couple of months ago.

Going forward, India will not only emerge Yamaha’s largest market globally but will play a big role in product development plans for other markets in the ASEAN region and even Europe. Likewise, its costing competencies will also come in handy for regions in Africa where commuter motorcycles are sought after in a big way.

Published on February 07, 2019
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