New Delhi Auto Expo 2012 – Motorcycle Manufacturers Draw Battle Lines for World’s Second Largest Market

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In past years, the biennial Auto Expo in India slipped under the radar while the industry was focused more on shows such as EICMA in Italy and Intermot in Germany. But with India’s middle class starting to flex its financial muscle while other markets continue to struggle, the New Delhi show is becoming much more prominent, with major OEMs positioning themselves to claim a piece of the India’s 13 million vehicles-a-year market.

We’ve already looked at India-produced Royal Enfield’s new Thunderbird 500 and Hero Moto’s hybrid scooter concept which debuted at the Auto Expo, and today we’ll look at what the major international OEMs presented.

This year’s show marks the first since Honda and the Hero Group dissolved their joint venture Hero Honda, which for years held a solid grip on nearly half of the country’s market share. The 2012 show also sees the Indian debut of Triumph, Victory and Vespa while Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Yamaha and Suzuki attempt to increase their presence in India.

Harley-Davidson announced it will begin assembling the Street Bob and Super Glide Custom from complete-knock down kits in India. The two models join the Superlow, Iron 883 and Forty-Eight to for a total of five models being assembled in India, out of Harley-Davidson’s 15 product offerings. Because of the lower import costs, Harley-Davidson announced price cuts for the Street Bob and Super Glide Custom.

Suzuki is one of India’s leading car makers but the Japanese manufacturer’s two-wheeled presence is much smaller. At the Auto Expo, Suzuki pulled the covers off two new models, the 110cc Hayate (pictured above in green) and the Swish 125 scooter (above in blue). The two new low-displacement models are joined by larger models familiar to North America such as the GSX-R1000, Hayabusa, as well as the Intruder M800 and M1800R (better known here as the Boulevard M50 and M109, respectively).

Yamaha employed Bollywood actor John Abraham to unveil the Ray, a new 125cc scooter concept, a model Indian site ZigWheels reports aimed for young female riders. Yamaha also displayed the recently updated YZF-R15 along with its M1 MotoGP bike. Yamaha also announced an 800 crore rupee (US$152 million) investment towards building a new factory in India.

Ducati presented its Asia-specific Monster 795 model in New Delhi, alongside its new Streetfighter 848 and the 1199 Panigale superbike as well as the rest of the product lineup.

Triumph is introducing seven models in its first foray into India. The British manufacturer will enter the market with the Bonneville, Rocket III, Thunderbird Storm, Speed Triple, Street Triple,  Daytona 675 and Tiger 800XC.

Victory also made its debut in India, though in a limited fashion. Victory didn’t have its own display or even a section of parent company Polaris’ setup alongside its ATVs and UTVs. Instead, a Victory Vision was displayed at ZigWheels’ exhibit. We first heard word Victory was preparing for expansion into India last February, and the display at Auto Expo is not an official launch. An official debut is expected to come later this year. According to ZigWheels, Victory will initially import fully constructed units to India and likely follow Harley-Davidson’s example of assembling kits in India.

Scooter icon Vespa made its return to the India at the Auto Expo after a 13-year absence. The Piaggio Group unveiled the Vespa LX125 (pictured at top), a scooter developed specifically for India. The LX125 is equipped with a three-valve 125cc four-stroke engine and features easier access to the engine and tires than found on Vespas produced for other markets. Piaggio will produce the LX125 at a new factory in Baramati, India, which is set to open in March.

[Source: Auto Expo, ZigWheels, Piaggio]

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