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BACK ON BIKES IN INDIA

The vast Indian motorcycle industry has begun to revive, after compulsory coronavirus lockdowns by government edict had suspended all manufacturing activities on 23 March. BDN financial editor Roger Willis reports.

Suzuki’s Kherki Dhaula bike plant in Gurugram, near New Delhi, most recently resumed some assembly on 18 May with a limited workforce in place. The company said this was initiated after special measures to protect employees, with an emphasis on social distancing, had been installed. The Indian subsidiaries of Honda and Yamaha are evidently operating again too, on the basis of seriously reduced production.

Indian market leader Hero MotoCorp started to make bikes again on 11 May, with just single shifts and a smaller number of workers in its plants. “We are not fully functional yet,” Hero chief executive Pawan Munjal later commented, adding that he expected very weak demand at first.

Hero’s nearest indigenous competitor Bajaj Auto had kicked off on 4 May, by first reopening franchised dealerships and service centres, in advance of production set to commence on 18 May. Dealers were required to impose mandatory thermal screening on customers, before they were allowed into showrooms, to protect sales staff from infection. TVS Motor has also rebooted its factories at Hosur, Mysuru and Nalagarh in Southern India.

Royal Enfield’s Oragadam plant on the outskirts of Chennai was back in business on 6 May, running a single daily shift with minimal staff. Assembly lines at its nearby factories in Thiruvottiyur and Vallam Vadagal (where Yamaha India is based as well) will follow “in a phased manner”, according to the company.

About 300 Royal Enfield dealerships were scheduled to be operational by mid-May. During April under lockdown conditions, the brand’s dealers across the whole of India sold a mere 91 motorcycles. Many major competitors recorded no retail sales whatsoever.   

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