Just for old times’ sake: Hoodibaba. Bajaj could sure teach Triumph a thing or two.
Stafford’s iPhone is reporting that the Indian business press is reporting that Bajaj Auto is considering a takeover of Triumph Motorcycles Ltd.. Ducati Motor Holding SpA was allegedly also under takeover consideration until recently.
Bajaj, while catching up with the Indian scooter market they abandoned a couple years ago, is now looking to catch a piece of the growing super-cheap automobile market. Forbes reports Bajaj is looking to form a joint-venture with Renault to produce an automobile to compete with Tata‘s highly-anticipated US$2,500 car.
The last month has been busy for Bajaj:
On February 9, 2007, Bajaj Auto announced a demerger plan that would seperate the company into two different organizations. An automotive group would be headed by Rajiv Bajaj, with a finance and insurance group run by his brother Sanjiv. Rumors began to circulate that there is a disagreement between the brothers, reminiscent of the the ugly fight between their father Rahul and his brother Shishir that resulted in an earlier break-up the business empire started by their grandfather Jamnalal Bajaj. Rahul, while admitting that his sons had strong and differing personalities, played down any animosity.
Around the same time, Bajaj Auto announced they’d scale back their 100cc motorcycle segment and focus on larger bikes at a similar price-point. A week later, a 200cc Pulsar was released, and and some new commercial vehicles were announced. Bajaj announced a “high end” 220cc motorcycle in the works, announced a 2-wheeler plant in Brazil, and hinted they were looking at the consumer automobile market, and Bajaj stock rose substantially.
A few days later (Feburary 16) the Financial Express reported that Bajaj Auto had started a feud with Hero Honda by planning to build a luxury Bajaj “Pro-Biking” boutique right next to Hero Honda’s corporate headquarters. The showroom would be the second of 55 such shops planned for 2007 with “a technology centre for in-depth understanding of the technology and a specially designed dynamometer for inside showroom test ride.” Bajaj plans to invest $17.5 million in the Pro-Biking showrooms. (A later storie used the figure $67.5 million)
The same day, Sri Lanka banned the import of 2-stroke three-wheelers. Sanjiv was unfazed, claiming that a switch to 4-stroke engines would be nearly effortless.
On the 18th, Bajaj offered bikes for sale on its website for the first time.
On the 21st, Bajaj Auto announced they’d make a decision about the demerger in May.
Feburary 24th brought news that Yamaha, in the midst of joint-venture talks with Bajaj Auto, was considering abandoning the Indian market.
On the 26th, amid rising inflation and labor unrest, Rahul represented industrialist India on a television show called “Citizen’s Budget. The same day, Sanjiv announced that Bajaj had exported 3,000 knocked-down Pulsars to Iran, which will go on sale there in April.
On March 3, Bajaj executive S Sridhar cited bloggers as essential to Bajaj’s marketing strategy (you’re welcome!). Sridhar told the Economic Times that Pulsar reviews were online withing three hours of the launch, and that Bajaj marketing executives watched blogs very closely for feedback (hello, Piaggio!).
On March 7, Bajaj slashed prices on its 100-cc Platina motorcycles to clear the way for bigger models as expected. Meanwhile, Bajaj Allianz, the insurance division who had earlier in the month signed a deal with BMW for auto insurance, announced they were targeting the retail bank sector and applied for a banking license. The talk in Pune, however, was more likely the Industrial Sports Association basketball final, where Tata Motors and Bajaj met that evening. Sadly, we can’t find a result, but we hope Bajaj pulled off a victory. Probably not, because yesterday, they announced they were raising prices on most models and that they would not take over Yamaha’s operations. Interestingly, they restated their committment to abandoning the 100cc motorcycle segment while announcing that a new 1-million capacity 100cc Platina factory in Uttarakhand will open in April.
So what did you do last month? Yes, we just posted six thousand words about Bajaj and didn’t even mention a single scooter. But we do have the dancing Rahul photos in our possesion, so keep readingâ€¦
Here’s what Vina–and R. Kelly–missed while having their appendices removed:
- The Hartford Courant ran a decent-but-typical scooter trend roundup story Tuesday.
- 40 scooterists rode through Cardiff, Wales to promote a stage adaptation of Quadrophenia.
- Indian political contender Surjit Singh Kohli is campaigning on a scooter in Punjab, while nearly 100 supporters of another Punjabi politician rallied on scooters.
- Bajaj will feature digital twin-spark ignition (DTSi) on all models starting in 2008
- The MP3 isn’t the only new three-wheeler out there. Also, (thanks Chandler),there’s this. Or (thanks, Vespabelle,) this. Hopefully Piaggio won’t face much marketplace confusion from these other vehicles.
- Australian police note that scooterists are creating traffic mayhem down under.
- Kinetic’s sales and income are up, but investors don’t seem to care.
Welcome home, Vina! Now if I could just remember where I put our daughterâ€¦
The Cabana Night Club in this Swiss ski resort, which boasts of the highest CEO density this time of the year, last night saw the cream of India, Inc. jostle for space on the dance floor and groove to Bollywood numbers.
Sunil Mittal, Rahul Bajaj and Nandan Nilekani let their guard down at the â€˜Bollywood Nightâ€™ hosted by Azim Premji, as DJ Aqueel from Cairo belted out groovy numbers from movies like Omkara and Bunti Aur Babli. While the seniors matched step to step, sometimes even better than the choreographed sequences in the movies, young business leaders, including Aditya Mittal, heir to L. N. Mittalâ€™s steel empire, were content to stand in the wings and see others swing around with their spouses.
2sb would pay good money for video of Rahul’s Bollywood moves. You know where to find me, McCabe.
- Honda unveiled their blinged-out Forza “Smart” concept scooter at the Tokyo Auto Salon.
- More on the Bajaj Krystal, announcing the Blade will be back on the market in six months.
- Honda recalled 455,000 scooters made for the Japanese market between 2002 and 2006 at their Sundiro Honda plant in China. It’ll cost Honda $15.8 million to replace faulty speedometers.
- The Wall Street Journal chimes in on the boom in smaller-displacement motorcycles and scooters.(Subscription onlyâ€¦ I didn’t actually read it, but Piaggio execs are probably quoted and mirth will ensue.)
- FourWheeler.com’s 2007 Honda Ruckus review.
- The Independent reviews the Piaggio MP3.
In the late 1990s, Ryan Bastianelli visited a Vespa/Bajaj dealer in Costa Rica and saw the four-stroke Chetak. The historic moment was captured in the film Vespa Gringo. It’s the Citizen Kane of Central American Scooter dealer videos. Be sure to check out Ryan’s other films, including Deer Feeding in Chicago (2006) and I am hot on Oprah (1993).
UPDATE 2011: Vespa Gringo is back online!
Sorry, we’ve still been a bit under the weather and busy with the impending holidays, but here are some stories from the last week to keep you up to date:
- Seinfeld star (and model for illnoise’s current hairstyle) Jason Alexander is getting around Australia on a Vespa.
- Autoblog makes a corny joke about AMCA’s bazooka Vespa with the inevitable comment that, being French, the gun should point backwards.
- There are hundreds of online shops selling electric bikes and scooters, but finally one man, Rich Sathoff of Raleigh, NC, had the idea to actually learn to repair them.
- Despite being indicted in a huge financial scandal last week and facing more than four years in prison, Piaggio boss Roberto Colaninno met with Italy’s prime minister yesterday, and is expected to bid for control of Italian airline Alitalia in January. Only in Italy. (Note: we could be totally misinterpreting that poorly-translated press release).
- Rumors of the death of the Indian scooter market have been exaggerated. Honda’s Indian subsidary is raising scooter production 20% after reports that Bajaj is developing new scooters. Analysts predict Indian makers will introduce as many as 60 new two-wheeler models in 2007, despite the indroduction of Tata Motors well-hyped Rs 1-lakh (US$2,250) automobile. Bajaj, meanwhile, has raised prices on all models other than the Pulsar by a whopping Rs500 (US$11).
- Speaking of the Pulsar, the Bajaj motorcycle was reported to be the first motorcycle to complete the Carrerra Pan Americana, a seven-day, 3000km race across Mexico. This was the first year motorcycles were invited to participate, though the English-language site for the event lists no rules or results for motorcycles.
- Back to India, motoring magazine Top Gear has named the 165cc Kinetic Blaze “‘Two-wheeler design of the year.” Never mind that Italjet designed it several years ago–to be fair, Kinetic has made some improvements to the original.
After admin SE’s tease on the ScooterBBS yesterday promising a “New Bajaj line,” ArgoUSA unveiled their new scooter today. It’s decidedly not a Bajaj, but the “AR150-18,” another presumably-Chinese-made Vino clone, mostly indiscernable from the TNG Milano, Schwinn Graduate, Baron 150VLA, and a dozen other generic scooters already on the market (although it does have front-and-rear disc brakes, and a Yamaha-manufactured engine). Saddled with a generic name and a $2500 MSRP (same as the Baron, more than the Schwinn or TNG) the AR150-18 is probably a decent scooter, but too little, too late to get the scootering world talking about ArgoUSA again, especially when you consider how few scooter dealers will be interested in adding yet another 150cc Vino clone to their lineup. The site promises “more models coming soon,” hopefully they’re a little more exciting. (Thanks for the tip, Professor Matthew)
Along the lines of the recent Yamaha/Yamoto â€œcopycatâ€? suit, Bajaj has blocked a Sri Lankan company from importing Chinese Bajaj Pulsar copies. Gulsar? Come on, you could at least try, China. A few hundred more small victories like this, and Chinese manufacturers might give up on knockoffs. Not likely a coincidence: on November 21, Bajaj announced plans to locate an assembly plant in China. While Bajaj already has plants in Nigeria and Indonesia that serve those markets exclusively, the Chinese plant would manufacture bikes for China as well as the international market.
From India’s Financial Express: a brief piece on how the Hero-Honda collaboration transformed the Indian scooter market into a motorcycle market. Bajaj and Hero Honda have been battling it out ever since, with Bajaj insisting that motorcycles are their top priority even as they backpeddle into the scooter market they abandoned this spring..
Following last month’s reports that Bajaj was looking to re-enter the scooter market, Moneycontrol India reported last week that Bajaj will launch the Kristal (for the ladies) in January, and re-introduce the Blade. Rajiv Bajaj, who seemed creepily gleeful a year ago when he proclaimed the Chetak dead, is hyping his mysterious hi-tech blockbuster 150cc scooter to the press and making it clear that it won’t be secondary to the Bajaj motorcycle line; it will be “insightfully positioned” (is that Rajiv for “boutique?”) at only 100 of Bajaj’s 500 dealerships. You’d think Bajaj could learn from Piaggio’s mistakes, even if Piaggio can’t. “Given that the Honda Eterno sells 90,000 units a year,” says Vespa Club of America historian John Gerber, “I have to wonder if they would try to compete in this niche with another geared scooter.” I think that seems unlikely, but I don’t think for a second that Rajiv would have any problem pillaging the “Chetak” name.
Forbes/Rediff’s profile of Bajaj head Rajiv Bajaj. Apparently, being five years behind international trends is the key to being a financial genius in India.
Bajaj is returning to the scooter market with 75 and 125cc automatic scooters next year, followed by an automatic 150cc model. The company abandoned scooter production last year — including the historic Chetak line of Vespa-like metal geared scooters — as small-displacement motorcycles gained popularity in India. Now they’ve been caught in the middle of a worldwide scooter boom with no scooters in production and only one scooter model, the Wave, at dealers. Can a new Chetak be far behind? Will the new 150cc automatic bear the Chetak name?