Every Sunday morning, the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway buzzes with the revving up of premium bikes - hundreds of them - with enthusiasts zipping past the scenic landscape. This weekend scene plays out also on the Delhi-Jaipur expressway and most urban highways across the country.
Premium bikes are in demand these days. It's the fastest growing segment and virtually every player worth its name is lapping up the opportunity to use this lucrative category to boost margins and gain an edge.
Premium means every bike sold in India over the 150-cc segment. Not to be mixed with superbikes pedigree carrying engine size of over 500 cc, these premium bikes are emerging as the most popular motorcycle segment after the 100-125cc commuter class bikes.
According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, sales for bikes of up to 150 cc swelled to 568,253 units till August, a 66 per cent jump over the same period in the previous fiscal. This is in sharp contrast to mere 12 per cent growth in the overall sale of bikes in the same period.
So, what's breeding the change in the pricier premium bikes where some of the models come at almost double the price of commuter bikes?
Besides the power and style, it's the unique ability to create a stir in life. Many of these models are the first to get igniter fuel injection systems, taking experienced riding to a new level with higher revs. They also render huge opportunity in developing new technologically superior and youthful products to bring riders into the world of biking.
It was the mighty Pulsar from Bajaj that changed the perception of Premium bikes way back in the early 2000s, but the real change is happening now. Most of the models fly off the shelf faster than production, forcing companies to expand the portfolio.
Hero MotoCorp, world's largest two-wheeler manufacturer added Achiever to its swelling portfolio of premium bikes, its sixth model after Hunk, Xtreme, Xtreme Sports, Karizma and ZMR, which comes with the Fuel-Injection (FI) technology.
While the Achiever, Hunk and Xtreme are all 150-cc bikes catering to different sub-segments within that space, the Karizma and the popular ZMR have 225-cc engine displacement.
Hero's intentions are quite clear. Bringing back the Achiever in its new gen-next avatar, Hero has added its own patented i3S (idle stop-start) technology and a BS-IV compliant engine to make it India's first 150-cc bike to have the iconic i3S technology and the automatic headlight on (AHO) feature. Additionally, the bike has undergone a complete overhaul to now carry a bold design to enhance its "on-road appeal" and comes with an array of new attractive features, adding to its premium-quotient.
"As the dominant market leader in both 100 cc and 125 cc segments in the domestic market, we are now looking at expanding our presence in the premium segment. The new Achiever 150 is a move in that direction allowing the customers to upgrade and play with technology at an extremely competitive price to make riding sporty and fun," says Pawan Munjal, Chairman, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Hero MotoCorp.
The Company is further revving up its 'premium' drive. Coming within the next one year is the new Xtreme 200S - a new sports bike from its own R&D facility - the Centre of Innovation and Technology (CIT) at Jaipur. Hero will also bring a completely platform, called the 'XF3R' - a concept of which it showcased at the Auto Expo in Greater Noida in February this year.
The premium bike segment is the fastest growing segment in the sluggish motorcycle market and there are close to two dozen models now available in the market, which is almost double the number from three years ago.
Bajaj still leads the pack with its mighty Pulsar and the Chennai-based TVS has made a mark with its sporty Apache badge to get the fun of rally styled motorsport racing bikes of the world on to the Indian streets.
The day may not be far when even the iconic American brand Harley-Davidson or the British bike company Triumph may downgrade their engine size to grab a larger opportunity in world's youngest two wheeler market.