Photo: Royal Enfield
Photo: Royal Enfield

Former Harley executive Rod Copes quits Royal Enfield

Copes came on board at Royal Enfield in July – August 2014 with about 20 years of experience at the American motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson Motor Company

MUMBAI : Rod Copes, who serves Royal Enfield as head for the North America (including Canada) and Latin American markets, has resigned from his post after a stint of over 5 years, two people aware of the development told Mint.

While his departure will leave Royal Enfield’s plans to further build up the lucrative North American markets in a lurch, industry veterans say that it would be difficult for the company to find an able replacement. Copes came on board at Royal Enfield in July – August 2014 with about 20 years of experience at the American motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

An alumni of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Copes was instrumental in setting up Eicher Motors Ltd – owned bikemaker’s operations in the USA and Canada. Later in April – May 2019, he also took over the responsibility of building the Latam markets, which included Brazil, Colombia and Argentina as key focus areas.

“Rod Copes has put down his papers at Royal Enfield and would serve his notice period until end-February. This is yet another high profile departure after Pierre Terblanche. Copes understood the pulse of the motorcycle market in North America. His departure would be a big blow to Royal Enfield in terms of further expanding the brand’s presence and growing volumes in Harley-Davidson’s home turf," one of the two people aware of his departure told Mint, requesting anonymity.

Although the company does not disclose its country-specific export volumes, it’s footprint across North America constitutes about 100 dealers (via multi-brand retail outlets). Under Copes, Royal Enfield was looking to scale up its yearly volumes around 10,000 – 15,000 units in midterm and was heavily banking on the 650cc models (Interceptor and Continental GT), which were first launched in California in Sept 2018.

Pierre Terblanche is a celebrated motorcycle designer, who was hired by Royal Enfield in November 2014. He moved out in July 2016.

Besides Europe, Royal Enfield has been pursuing North America (including Canada) as one of the key developed markets via exports from India. It had set up a local subsidiary named Royal Enfield North America (RENA) in 2016 and had launched the Himalayan model as first new motorcycle, which delivered decent volumes.

“Royal Enfield aims to become the largest midsize motorcycle (250cc-750cc) player globally. Capitalizing on the trend of rising demand for middleweight bikes across developing and developed markets, it aims to compete with Harley-Davidson, which commands with a market share of over 50% in 600cc and above segment," said the first person.

The company had not replied to Mint’s email seeking official comments on the matter until press time.

Royal Enfield’s exports, along with domestic volumes, have declined 15% year-on-year for three quarters ending December 2019.

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