It has been about a month since Kawasaki broke ties with Bajaj Auto and what has followed the divorce doesn't seem to be going well for the Japanese brand. The eight-year-long partnership officially came to an end on 1st April, 2017, however service and repairs of Kawasaki motorcycles was discontinued at Bajaj workshops well before that. I appreciate the Japanese manufacturer's lone wolf attitude, but as big as my love for Kawasakis maybe, I am now forced to reconsider if my next bike will be a Kawasaki. Here's why:
Buying a Kawasaki motorcycle has never been an easy decision in India as you don't just go and buy it. They are more expensive than their counterparts in the same segment, their spare parts are pricier too and in some cases they lack features and are down on power too. However, for those who buy one or have recently bough one, what happens next? Here's an account of the problems I've been facing as a Kawasaki owner in New Delhi, so one can imagine what happens to customers in smaller cities.
The new owners will soon be requiring service for their bikes, which the workshop at Chhatarpur can handle. Sure, Kawasakis are fairly reliable, you won't need much to do in the initial years. However, if it is an aging bike and you need to change the chain/ sprocket or have broken the fairing or if the starter motor has died, the workshop will first place an order on your behalf when you make half the payment and then the parts will be shipped from Thailand in a month or more. Even by superbike standards this is a slow turnaround time and here I am struggling with a little Ninja 250.
Deliveries of new motorcycles have not been affected, and the brand recently launched some more new models too. But then, what good is launching new products without an established after-sales network? What happens to the motorcycles that crashed and have been lying at the workshops?
Some two wheeler manufacturers took a hit post Supreme Court ban on BSIII vehicles, and Kawasaki might say that it's departure from Bajaj Autos was also a pull back, but it is only sensible to launch new models when the after-sales service has been well set up. Other brands like Honda and Suzuki offer spares and service support, and for a brand which is not well established in the country, Triumph first attended to bringing after-sales on point before rolling out new models in the market.
I own a four-year-old Ninja 250R. I ride it, or rather used to ride it everyday to work and back and have even ridden it to Kathmandu and back. It is an absolute joy riding the motorcycle but, I've been facing some problems with the starter motor for quite some time, a problem that arose before Bajaj-Kawasaki ties broke and has persisted ever since. It has now been four-five months, I've had the same issue. Time taken by the service centre to be functional again has cost me even more days of taking cabs. And this time will stretch longer as parts aren't available yet!
And now coming to prospective buyers. My colleague said he had plans of buying the Ninja 300, but expressed his doubts considering the gaps in Kawasaki's after sales service. Same is the case with another friend of mine who was considering purchasing the Versys 650, but has retracted the plan.
Kawasaki builds brilliant motorcycles, with very refined engines, promising addictive performance with an orchestra for noise. However, the brand should expect a dip in its already small sales number if the after-sales network is not strengthened in India, and soon. Losing trust of existing and potential buyers doesn't bode well for a small brand that survives almost entirely on the trust of its customers only.