WHAT WE HAVE LEARNT
Last month’s announcement is A Very Big Deal, also finding a special mention in front of the world’s biking media at the launch of the new Speedmaster and Bobber Black. Here are some insights we have gained into the Triumph-Bajaj partnership
With an average of 48,000 bikes sold every day, the two-wheeler market in India has hit 17.7 million units to overtake China as the world’s largest and we are not just buying Splendors and Activas. Just look at Eicher’s stock price, riding high on the staggering 50 per cent growth that Royal Enfield have been clocking for the past six years. And nearly 70 per cent of the sales are of the Classic 350. The profit margins on that must be making every other motorcycle manufacturer insane with envy.
Royal Enfield is clearly the target of the Triumph – Bajaj Auto partnership. On the sidelines of the Speedmaster and Bobber Black launch in the UK, we caught up with Triumph’s director of sales and marketing Paul Stroud (pic on right). “We are planning to create a range of motorcycles, which would be branded Triumph and that range of motorcycles will effectively create a new entry point”, says Stroud. “And without question it will give us an opportunity to grow Triumph sales around the world.”
To a pointed question whether Royal Enfield is the target of the partnership: “I have no answer for that, but you know the segments of the market that are growing, you know what Triumph stands for, so you can draw your own conclusions.” Neither is Stroud revealing where the new bike will be positioned or what it will look like. “Look at where the strands of the Triumph proposition are. We are firmly aligned on three platforms: adventure, modern classics and naked sports.”
Steve Sargent, chief product officer of Triumph offers more clues. “We bring that strong heritage brand, all of that history, that British styling”. And what planks do the Classic 350 sell on if not the British styling, brand and history? Sargent adds, “We will take the lead on the styling.”
It’s safe to assume that the engineering of the bike will be done – actually is already being done – in Pune. “Bajaj have a very large and experienced R&D team, they have some very, very capable people there”, says Sargent about Bajaj’s Stars Ahead team. “They bring a lot to the table in terms of their understanding on how to design and manufacture a bike in a way that is very, very economical and allows us to hit a certain price point.” So unlike the TVS – BMW Motorrad deal where the 310 series was completely engineered in Munich, Triumph will apply their expertise of “how to set up the bike so that it not only looks like a Triumph but handles, feels and sounds like a Triumph. We are doing most of the work in terms of chassis geometry, suspension settings, ergonomics and making sure the bike handles as we would expect a Triumph to handle.” clarifies Sargent.
The obvious assumption is that the engine will be a single cylinder to keep costs in check. I point blank ask Stuart Wood, Triumph’s engineering head, about a single. “I can’t tell you that”, he replies. But is a single in keeping with Triumph’s character? “That’s within our character”, says Wood adding, “I am not saying we are not doing that but that would be within our character.”
But Bajaj already has a 400cc single in the Dominar and 400cc is the max you can go up to in a single without having to deal with refinement issues. For a company as cost obsessed as Bajaj Auto, it’s hard to imagine them working on a brand new 400cc when there’s already one in the portfolio. And we all know there are a fair few traces of KTM’s 390 in the Dominar’s engine. Without doubt Wood’s team will work hard to make that engine sound and feel like a Triumph but what a story the evolution of the engine is going to be!
Economies of scale is the reason for this partnership. “We are manufacturing 67,000 motorcycles a year”, says Sargent. “They are doing two and half million. You can imagine what that does to your cost base when you got that kind of economy of scale.”
And who will retail the new madein-India Triumph range (it will be more than one bike) especially since the agreement specifically includes distribution? “The distribution strategy hasn’t yet been agreed between us,” says Paul Stroud. “Our dealer network in India has so far done a fantastic job, they have invested on behalf of the brand.” And for emphasis he adds, “I absolutely believe and fully expect them to be a part of the picture as we go forward.”
So what have we learnt? The Triumph-Bajaj will be a singlecylinder modern classic. Bajaj will develop the engine and frame while Triumph will tune it to their brand values. The styling will be pure Triumph. The manufacturing and sourcing will be all Bajaj. Bajaj’s distribution network, only recently divorced from Kawasaki, will be leveraged to push these bikes throughout the country. The target will be Royal Enfield. And the launch will be early next year because there’s no reason to make a big announcement unless you have test mules ready to hit the roads.