Last week, Triumph Motorcycles, UK’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, cemented its relationship with India by entering into an alliance with Bajaj Auto. The two companies will develop and manufacture mid-capacity bikes for the domestic and global markets. At present, Triumph only sells high-end bikes in India and assembles them here. Nick Bloor, chief executive officer of Triumph Motorcycles and son of the founder of the legendary bike company, John Bloor, elaborates on the new alliance in an exclusive e-mail interview with Surajeet Das Gupta. Edited excerpts:
As a result of the alliance, do you see the possibility of Bajaj Auto becoming your partner to create a global manufacturing hub for mid-capacity bikes in India? If so, which markets are you going to look at and why?
We have manufacturing facilities in both the UK and Thailand for our large-capacity bikes — that will not change. The bikes, which will be made in India through our partnership, will be sold domestically and also exported to all of our current markets, plus those where Bajaj has a network.
In India you sell bikes that cost above Rs 7 lakh and, therefore, it is a very limited market. Do you expect the alliance to give you an opportunity to build these high-end bikes also in India and substantially reduce their price?
We currently have a CKD (completely-knocked-down) production facility in Manesar (in Gurugram, near Delhi) for assembling our current range of premium motorcycles, and we absolutely foresee this facility continuing to produce our current range of premium motorcycles.
What is the time period in which you think this range of mid-capacity bikes can be available on the roads. How will you divide the work of R&D and design of these bikes between you and Bajaj?
We have already started the development between the two companies for this new range of motorcycles, and will update you with timings, etc, nearer the time.
China has a much larger domestic market for the kind of bikes you are talking about and has a more evolved components manufacturing base. What made you choose India over China for making these new mid-capacity bikes? What is the cost advantage?
India has a huge domestic market that is maturing rapidly and we are well positioned due to the great work we have carried out setting up a first-class dealer network and promoting the brand over the past four years. We have been in regular contact with Bajaj over the past 10 years, and we realised that the collective strength of the two companies places us both in a very strong position from which to achieve further growth.
Are KTM and Husqvarna (brands with which Bajaj Auto has an alliance and also stakes) competitors for you in the global market place. Is that an issue which you have to contend with, or will the four brands ensure they do not compete with each other?
We see that there is a place for all the brands within the marketplace, as is the case in the rest of the world.
If the partnership goes well, will you both look for equity partnerships in each other, or is that ruled out? Why did you get into an alliance without equity?
Both Triumph and Bajaj have a great opportunity to grow their business through this partnership. We do not need an equity stake when there is mutually-beneficial outcome from the successful partnership.
How is the global scenario for upper-end bikes? Is the market growing, and, if so, by how much? How has the Chinese market done for you?
The big bike market globally is flat, but Triumph continues to grow within the market — having just achieved fourth successive record year, with sales up over the last 12 months by 10 per cent. China is not a significantly big bike market at the moment, and does not have a material impact on the global sales numbers.
With electric cars and autonomous drive becoming the new rage, do you see the same to get replicated in the two-wheeler industry? Is Triumph looking at developing electric bikes?
Technology is moving at a rapid rate, especially in the automotive world. We continuously monitor these technologies and trends but don’t see the technology being mature enough at the moment.
Reducing carbon emissions is a key requirement for the future of transportation. What is Triumph doing in this regard?
We are continuously developing our bikes to improve emissions and improve fuel efficiencies. A great example of this is our new Bonneville range, where the fuel economy has increased by 29 per cent to 74 mph, with an increase in capacity too. This has all been done through our advanced engineering, reducing carbon emissions, increasing fuel economies, whilst packaging the technology in a way that does not impact upon the beauty and styling of our motorcycles.