The global economic downturn hasn’t been kind to the motorcycle industry, but you wouldn’t know it if you were in India. That nation’s burgeoning middle class wants all the things the middle class wants anywhere, including the symbol of economic prosperity, personally-owned transportation—and a motorcycle is the most affordable ticket. That’s why Triumph India—a wholly owned subsidiary of Triumph Motorcycles UK—will debut a line of single-cylinder motorcycles in three years, according to an interview with Triumph India’s Managing Director Ashish Joshi that appeared in India’s Business Standard newspaper.
Joshi has since left the company—maybe for speaking out of turn?—but he revealed much in the interview. Triumph India is focusing on the small market for premium motorcycles, assembling “Completely Knocked Down (CKD)” kits to circumvent tariffs to offer bigger models like the Bonneville and Rocket III. When the Indian plant is set up, it will be assembling 10-14 bikes a day, a drop in the bucket for a nation of over a billion. But there’s not much demand for million-Rupee motorbikes with 100-plus mph top speeds—as we wrote earlier, Indians buy motorcycles and scooters in staggering numbers: 13.44 million in 2011, with almost all the models under 500cc. A small company like Triumph only needs a small slice of that huge pie.
The new models are code-named “Street,” and will use a liquid-cooled, four-valve head and displace between 267 to 350cc, according to a story in Motorcycle Sport and Leisure. We can imagine the engine would be installed in a range of different styles, mirroring the bigger models—a retro-styled classic, an adventure tourer (and it would have to be called a Cub, no?) and a naked roadster like the 675cc Street Triple.
These models would almost certainly be manufactured and sold in other markets—Thailand and Brazil, certainly, but given the popularity of smaller sportbikes like Kawasaki’s Ninja 250R and Honda’s CBR250R, the idea of a budget-priced 350cc Street Single in the USA makes plenty of sense. Triumph’s American dealers lack an entry-level machine (unless you consider the $7699, 495-pound Bonneville “entry level”), so this would seem like a perfect way to get those who crave a Triumph entry to the Triumph brand.
If you want even more idle speculation, expect more bikes like this from all the non-Japanese brands. Both Piaggio (parent company of Aprilia and Moto Guzzi) and KTM have facilities in India, and KTM is already selling its street thumper there. Ducati would do well to trade on its history of single-cylinder motorcycles, too. Even Harley-Davidson has a plant in India, and has no shortage of small-bike names. Updated Sprint anyone?
Times have been relatively difficult for companies banking on expensive, large-displacement models, but we could be entering a Renaissance of fun, light, inexpensive one-lung models.