BSA and Jawa brands to Mahindra
The ongoing revival of Britain’s historic motorcycle brands has seen the rights to the dormant BSA brand purchased by the $17.8 billion Indian industrial conglomerate Mahindra Group, one of the top 20 companies in India’s Fortune 500 index. India’s largest SUV and utility vehicle manufacturer, Mahindra has a global workforce of over 200,000 people in more than 100 countries, and is the world’s largest maker of tractors. In 2008 Mahindra expanded into the two-wheeled sector by spending $17 million in purchasing Kinetic, a small Indian manufacturer which had acquired the rights to most products of the defunct Italian scooter company Italjet. Mahindra has since invested upwards of $200 million in MTW/Mahindra Two Wheelers, including constructing a state-of-the-art factory with an annual production capacity of 500,000 units. In a deal signed on October 20 with David Bennett, CEO of UK-based Regal Engineering, holder of the BSA trademark, Mahindra Group subsidiary Classic Legends Pvt. Ltd has acquired all 120,000 shares of BSA Co. Ltd. in a transaction totalling GBP 3.4 million. Classic Legends has also signed an exclusive brand licence agreement for the Czech marque Jawa, but this is not an acquisition, merely the licence to use the name in India. Two-stroke Jawas were built in India during 1960-1996, generating a cult local following which persists even today, so the brand will be used exclusively for Indian customers. Acquiring BSA denotes Mahindra’s intent to target premium sectors of the motorcycle business in export markets. It’s understood Mahindra aims to establish its own BSA R&D centre in the UK, just as its Royal Enfield rival has recently done, and to manufacture BSAs in the marque’s country of origin. BSA produced its first motorcycle in 1910, and went on to become Britain’s largest manufacturer by the early 1960s; the 20,000-strong workforce in its Birmingham factory producing over 50,000 bikes annually, against 30,000 by Triumph, 20,000 by AJS/Matchless, and just 5,000 Nortons. Yet by 1972 BSA was in the hands of the receivers, thanks to catastrophically bad management by an inadequate board of directors.
BSA’s final collapse came after two years of late production, when its models twice missed the USA’s early-Spring key sales period. Its motorcycle business was merged with Triumph and Norton-Villiers as part of a British government-initiated rescue plan to create NVT, headed by Dennis Poore. He shut down the Small Heath factory, and BSA was no more. Until now.