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INDIAN BIKE SALES SURGE GATHERS PACE

India’s huge motorcycle industry has leap-frogged the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact to substantially claw back domestic business lost during the country’s economic downturn in 2019. And as its traditional peak sales season progresses towards the crescendo of Diwali’s religious festivities of rejuvenation celebrated in mid-November, most bike manufacturers on the sub-continent have extended tentative August recovery with far better gains in September. BDN financial editor Roger Willis reports.

As ever, Indian domestic market leader Hero MotoCorp was out in front, boasting a 16.1% year-on-year rise to 697,293 motorcycles and scooters sold in September — up from an 8.5% improvement to 568,674 during the previous month. Honda’s Indian subsidiary HMSI consolidated second spot, climbing by 8.5% to 526,865, against August’s slight 0.6% increase to 428,231.

Somewhat lower down home-market rankings in third place, TVS Motor actually dropped by a marginal 0.5% to 241,762, although its motorcycle sales were 12.7% higher at 139,698. Bajaj Auto in fourth, on the other hand, was catching up fast, stacking on 23.8% to 219,500. Royal Enfield rose by a modest 1.9% to 55,910.

Among major exporters, Bajaj led September’s field with a 16.3% increase to 185,351. Presumably that tally includes the KTM and Husqvarna models it makes for equity and technical partner Pierer Mobility in Europe, as well as own-brand shipments to places like Egypt, East Africa, Indonesia and Latin America. 

TVS claimed a superior export gain of 23.9% to 71,570. Similarly, some of these would have been BMW Motorrad products produced under contract and destined for Europe and elsewhere.

And while we might think of Royal Enfield as a significant exporter, Indian industry data says otherwise. In September, its overseas sales fell by 11% to just 4131 bikes.

The formerly British brand is now under direct assault from mighty Honda on home turf too. HMSI has just launched a serious challenger to Royal Enfield’s domestic best-selling Classic 350 “baby Bullet”. This Honda CB350 H’ness shares retro styling and long-stroke, single-cylinder configuration with the Classic but flaunts distinctly superior build quality and technology. 

Its OTR price is the rupee equivalent of about £2000, approximately a couple of hundred quid more expensive than the Classic. But that difference buys an impressive list of bells and whistles. Apart from having a bit more power, the CB350 features traction control, LED lights, a semi-digital dash and alloy wheels. You could almost see it as a cheap and cheerful commuter on UK roads.        

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