Home / Auto / India is Benelli’s top priority: CMO Dante Bustos

Mumbai: Italian superbike maker Benelli QJ has renewed its focus on India after ending a distribution partnership with Pune-based DSK Motowheels, a top company executive said. “This (India) is an incredible market. It is not one of our top priorities, but the top priority," Dante Bustos, global chief marketing officer, Benelli said in an interview.

Benelli entered the Indian market in partnership with DSK Motowheels, a part of the DSK Group, to sell its bikes in India in 2015. The partnership ended earlier this year, after Shirish Kulkarni, managing director of DSK Motowheels, was arrested in a financial fraud case.

Benelli believes India is uniquely placed because customers are now demanding more powerful and premium bikes on the back of higher purchasing power and an aspiration to showcase increasing wealth. “The market for smaller displacement bikes in India will turn to larger displacements because the mature Indian consumer needs better motorcycles with higher displacements for different uses," Bustos said.

Through a partnership with Hyderabad-based Mahavir Group’s dealership subsidiary Adishwar Auto Ride India (AARI) Pvt. Ltd, Benelli aims to introduce facelifts of three existing models (TNT 300, TNT 302R, TNT 600i) in October this year, when its assembly facility at Pochampally in Hyderabad will be ready.

By the end of 2019, Benelli’s refreshed portfolio will widen to 12 models, “more than thrice of what we’ve had in the past" and will include bikes with various engine displacements from the Leoncino, TRK and Imperiale families, Bustos said.

With an aim to sell 3,000 bikes within a year from October, Benelli expects to corner 30% of the market it is present in (bikes with 300cc-800cc engines excluding cruisers), up from about 21% now.

Since entering India in 2015, Benelli has sold about 5,650 bikes in the domestic market, and competes with other iconic motorcycle makers such as Harley-Davidson India Pvt. Ltd, India Kawasaki Motors Pvt. Ltd and Triumph Motorcycles (India) Pvt. Ltd.

Initially, the vehicles will be bought to India in a completely knocked down (CKD) form to be assembled here, with the Zhejiang Qianjiang Motorcycle Co. Ltd-owned firm actively seeking out local suppliers to improve cost efficiencies.

The Mahavir Group will make the investments in the first phase to set up the assembly facility and triple the dealership count from the current 18 by 2020, said Vikas Jhabakh, director at the Mahavir Group.

The plant, spread over three acres, will be capable of assembling 7,000 units a year in a single shift, which can be ramped up to 10,000 units, he added.

At the same time, Benelli and AARI are exploring various options “which include but are not limited to" complete localization of one or multiple products, setting up an R&D facility and the possibility of building a product specifically for India as part of the second phase, which could be firmed up in as quickly as a year’s time.

Established in 1911, Benelli is one of the oldest Italian motorcycle manufacturers.

It was bought by the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group in 2005, which also owns Swedish automaker Volvo AB through Hong Kong-listed automaker Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd.

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