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21/10/2016

Indian motorcycle manufacturer Mahindra Two Wheelers has purchased the historic BSA brand name from Southampton-based BSA-Regal Engineering.

Mahindra Two Wheelers, which is part of the £14.5bn Mahindra Group’s Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) automotive operations, had announced that it was seeking to buy an iconic British bike brand in May this year, with Norton leading its list of targets. Norton supremo Stuart Garner wasn’t interested in selling, but BSA-Regal has obviously been tempted by M&M supremo Anand Mahindra’s exceedingly plump cheque book, writes BDN financial editor Roger Willis.

Since the original BSA concern — once the world’s largest motorcycle producer — went bust in 1972, the brand became moribund apart from modest quantities of BSA Bushman and Tracker trail bikes destined for Third World markets, made by a series of small successor companies. These were powered by Yamaha and then Italian proprietary two-stroke motors. Regal subsequently bought the last vestiges of that enterprise in 1994 but bike production had ceased in 1990.

M&M’s venture into powered two-wheelers also has a patchy history. Despite a big initial investment, absorbing Indian scooter-maker Kinetic and then establishing a joint-venture with Taiwanese brand SYM, it has failed to break into India’s mass-market motorcycling mainstream. That is dominated by Hero MotoCorp, Bajaj Auto, Honda and TVS, and is worth more than 16 million units annually.

High-profile promotion, such as the Aspar Mahindra Moto 3 team in MotoGP fielding Jorge Martin and Francesco Bagnaia, has done little to change such under-performance. And the company has yet to deliver any significant result from its 2014 acquisition of a majority stake in French scooter brand Peugeot.

Presumably a move into BSA branding will seek to emulate stunningly successful development of the similarly iconic and ex-British Royal Enfield brand into a global prospect, by Mahindra’s Indian competitor Eicher Motors. 

More in the next issue of BDN.