It took nearly 30 years for Bajaj Auto to move from the ubiquitous Chetak scooter to the flashy Pulsar. However, today the Pune-based company doesn’t take that long a period to bring out a new brand. The company will soon become the first Indian company to not just manufacture but also to design and develop high performance bikes.
Rajiv Bajaj-led Bajaj Auto, India's second biggest motorcycle producer, will soon start developing 400 cc super bikes for Austrian bike maker KTM.
Bajaj Auto, which holds 47 per cent equity in KTM, already manufactures Duke 125 cc and 200 cc models for KTM from the Chakan plant. Duke is sold in India as well as in Japan and Europe.
Over the next two-three years Bajaj Auto will carry out all projects of KTM having engine capacities up to 400cc from scratch to final product. These include designing, styling, engineering, testing of engines and vehicles, most of which were hitherto done outside India.
Speaking to Business Standard, Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto says: "We have plans to rapidly go up from the 125cc Duke not only in terms of engine capacity but also in terms of styling and designing. For the next couple of years, we have some very interesting designs on high-performance bikes lined up for introductions starting with early 2013.”
Last year, Bajaj Auto started shipping made-in-India products of KTM back to its home market, Austria. The 125cc KTM Duke has also been selling in Japan since early this year, beating Yamaha India that ships R15 bikes, which are made in India, back to Japan.
“Although there is no hard and fast rule, all the bikes (of KTM) which are planned for the next 2-3 years will be entirely developed at our R&D in Akurdi and they will be all be manufactured at our plant in Chakan. They will be sold in other parts of the world and India,” says Bajaj.
Over the next two years, four or five new products of KTM will hit the Indian and international markets. These bikes are sold through select Bajaj sales outlets in India and by KTM in export markets.
“There are various platforms and a twin cylinder platform under consideration. Essentially we have agreed that almost all KTM motorcycles up to 400cc will be designed and developed in India. That is why the 375cc (Pulsar) is also being done,” adds Bajaj.
The new generation Pulsar 200NS shares its engine, the platform and a host of components with the KTM Duke 200. Both are manufactured from the same facility in Pune. However, both are priced differently in the market with the Pulsar being cheaper.
As per the mutual agreement between Bajaj and KTM, the Indian company will restrict itself from entering the space above 400cc for the time being. However, Bajaj could revisit its strategies over time.
"We see ourselves in terms of relevance not to go too higher because then people won’t buy our products. So up to 400cc, we can build a market. As time passes, naturally we will have to recalibrate to the evolution of the market. KTM is already very strong in 990cc and above, which of course will be continued to be done out of Austria,” says Bajaj.
While the super bike segment of 990cc and above remains with KTM, Bajaj is eyeing the segment a shade below -- bikes with engines between 400cc and 990cc. Bringing those beasts to India may be one hell of a ride.