Suzuki targets slump-defying superbike segment

Suzuki targets slump-defying superbike segment

New Delhi: A very small but growing market for top-end bikes that’s seemingly immune to the slowdown in car, scooter and bike sales has prompted Suzuki to launch two of its global best-selling superbike models in India.

Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt. Ltd plans to sell the Hayabusa 1300 and Intruder M1800R in India, the company said on Wednesday. Superbikes are typically 1,000cc-plus motorcycles with a large displacement that allows them to accelerate quickly. They cost at least as much as a luxury sedan and are largely bought by passionate bikers.

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1cdf1dfa-bbdd-11dd-9a79-000b5dabf613.flvTill now, these bikes had been brought into the country by individual importers only once they’d been ordered by bike enthusiasts. There are an estimated 3,000 superbikes across the country.

Suzuki’s move comes after two of its global competitors have shown that the market for such bikes in India has exceeded expectations. In the past year, Yamaha and Ducati have also launched their top-end bikes in India.

“We didn’t anticipate such a good response for these bikes," said Pankaj Dubey, national business head for India Yamaha Motor Pvt. Ltd. In December 2007, the company launched YZF R1 and MT01 bikes and said it expected to sell 50 of these in the first year. Instead, it has ended up selling at least 100 units. Both bikes retail for at least Rs10 lakh.

Similarly, sales of Ducati bikes, which are imported into the country by Precision Motor Pvt. Ltd, have been quicker than anticipated. Launched in May, the company has sold 50% more bikes than they anticipated, says chief executive Ashish Chordia. “We didn’t expect to sell more than 25-30 bikes," he says.

With an overwhelming majority—at least 90%—sold to customers not dependent on finance, the segment hasn’t been hit by the slowdown in sales of other two wheelers that have been hurt by credit that has become both expensive and hard to come by.

Suzuki anticipates that the total market for such bikes in India is close to 600 units. “We anticipate that there is one bike enthusiast who is willing to pay (for such a bike) per day," said Atul Gupta, vice-president, sales and marketing, Suzuki Motorcycles, referring to the 350 or so bikes the company has targeted to sell every year.

The availability of these bikes in India comes as a boon to biking enthusiasts. Vikram Vijayraghavan, a 24-year-old Bangalore-based businessman, owned a Suzuki GSXR1000 for three years before switching to a Honda Fireblade earlier this year. He’s been very satisfied with the performance of both bikes and says with more coming into India, getting spare parts and servicing them should become easier.

Given the small number of bikes sold each year, the firms, for the time being, plan to stick to the import route and bring the bikes into the country as completely built units, or CBUs, which attract a customs duty of 114%.