Commuter motorcycles to premium rides: Global brands lead the way

Diego Graffi, chairman and managing director of Piaggio India.
Diego Graffi, chairman and managing director of Piaggio India.


The company will launch its Aprilia high-performance motorcycles in 2024

Mid-sized premium motorcycle sales are poised to grow fivefold within three-four years, as India’s motorcycle market, traditionally dominated by commuter bikes for daily transportation, shifts toward high-performance models with advanced styling and features, Diego Graffi, chairman and managing director of Piaggio India, said in an interview.

The segment, although currently small, is rapidly expanding while the core commuter motorcycle market in India is contracting, he said. This will attract many international brands, as well as new and existing domestic brands, to the 300cc-500cc segments, he added.

To illustrate this trend, Graffi said international brands such as KTM, BMW, Triumph and Harley-Davidson have collaborated with domestic original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to manufacture premium motorcycles in India. Furthermore, India also plays a vital role as an export hub for the companies’ lower displacement products.

Besides, Italian automobile multinational Piaggio will be launching its Aprilia high-performance motorcycles in India for the first time in 2024.

“Until five years ago, excluding Royal Enfield, which accounts for a majority of this segment but is priced and positioned very uniquely, volumes in this segment were zero. That apart, in the fun and sport categories, there were no players until a few years ago. But now, volumes currently ranging from 20,000 units to 30,000 units a month are progressively expanding and we expect in the next three to five years, they will cross 100,000 units. Not only because of more sales from OEMs that already play in this segment—and now we (Aprilia) are part of this pool—but also the segment will have many other players. We will see several Indian and international brands come in."

Growing interest in adventure motorcycling is resonating with various brands, tapping into India’s growing aspirational population. This year also marks a significant milestone as MotoGP, the world’s premier motorcycle racing series, makes its debut in India.

Aprilia introduced its smallest and most accessible motorcycle, the RS 457, in India alongside the MotoGP race.

While it is not clear whether the company will be assembling the motorcycles here, unlike the Aprilia and Vespa models produced at its factory in Baramati, Maharashtra, the move has a strategic significance for India’s evolving market.

The small and affordable premium motorcycle segment is witnessing consolidation, and India is increasingly being used as a manufacturing hub for low-cost premium motorcycle models for export markets.

For instance, Bajaj Auto and Hero MotoCorp have ventured into the 400cc-500cc range with Triumph and Harley-Davidson branding, respectively. TVS Motor Company is also a contract manufacturer for BMW’s highly popular G310R. The brands not only manufacture motorcycles on these global platforms, but are also marketing them under their own brand names.

“We’ve seen a progressive evolution in what customers expect in terms of a bike’s performance, design and styling. Bikes on Indian roads now share similarities with those in Italy, which was not the case until a few years ago. The focus has shifted."

Graffi hopes the Aprilia RS 457, then, will also have a halo effect and rub off positively on the brand’s existing offerings.

“So, the target that we have is to use this product to expand our concept of the Motoplex retail model and we also definitely want to attract more customers to come to our outlets," Graffi said. “About 70% of all our 250 touchpoints are in tier-1 and tier-2 cities, so our customer is definitely urban and concentrated in big cities," he added.

Catch all the Corporate news and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.


Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App