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.

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