Remember the bragging rights a KTM 390 Duke customer had over someone who chooses for example a Kawasaki Ninja 300? Let’s forget the horsepower, dynamics for a bit here but in our hearts, we know the KTM’s excellent Metzeler tyres allowed the rider a perfect grip both in the dry and wet. Similarly, while the odd-ball Mahindra Mojo was launched, the one thing that was appreciated the most was the bike’s imported Pirelli tyres. What do these foreign-make tyres have that our Indian made ones don’t? Well, the Indian government seems to be asking these same questions and post the first wave of the pandemic, these amplified. You see, while the tyre brands may originally be from Germany or Italy, they are usually made in China. At present, most of the big bike customers too are using Indian counterpart replacements of these tyres because of the import ban. Are Indian tyre companies rising up to the task and what are your options? Read on.
The major Indian two-wheeler tyre makers include Bridgestone, Apollo, Michelin, CEAT, MRF, and TVS Eurogrip. Out of these, Bridgestone India only caters to the aftermarket and OEMs for four-wheelers. Only the TVS Apache RR310 motorcycle uses Michelin tyres and the company confirmed that this bike, in the near future, will continue using these. On the same lines, a few months ago, TVS Eurogrip confirmed that it is making tyres for many sportbikes in the Indian market. These are mostly aftermarket and come in the same tyre size as that of the 390 Duke. Apollo on the other hand, has also started making tyres for a wide variety of Royal Enfield bikes.
Satish Sharma, president, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa (APMEA), Apollo Tyres Ltd said “The majority of imports in India, in the two-wheeler space, were primarily for premium and superbike segment. Apollo’s strategy is to get to a podium position in this segment and our R&D efforts are aligned towards this. In the short- run, ease of availability of tyres in the premium bike segment to OEs will improve their sales and consumer confidence. In the long-run, this will also help the superbike segment to also grow more rapidly as consumers face a serious issue with the availability of fresh tyres, service capability and global product performance in India. Apollo, is strategically placed to play this to its advantage with global technology standard of Steel Radial products, and to introduce products for Indian consumers across premium and superbike segment.”
Parag Satpute, the MD of Bridgestone India told Express Drives, “The call for being Atmanirbhar was to make India self-reliant, and the basis of this was to ensure that the Indian industry can meet the challenge of domestic demand for goods and services. Let me put this in perspective. There was a grey market in tyres supplied by a certain section of trade that was not conforming to FTA norms and importing tyres with no respect to country of origin. This flourishing grey market was detrimental to the domestic industry. By putting tyre import in the restrictive category, the government has effectively put a lid on this grey market.
Government has further allowed import of those categories of tyre that are not manufactured domestically, thus ensuring that both customer and consumer does not suffer for want of supply. In the long run, this allows the industry to ramp up and upgrade production facilities. We are committed to the government’s Make-in-India initiative and continue to invest in our production plants in Pune and Indore that cater to passenger and commercial vehicle segments.”
In short, Parag’s words confirm that if a motorcycle or car has an unusual tyre size, something that manufacturers in India too are reluctant to make citing one-off cases, then it can be imported. Having a Make-in-India initiative helps because the investments in our country will increase, and it also means more employment opportunities as well as overall reduced costs for the end-user. The lower taxation benefits too will be an added benefit. It also gives a fillip to our rubber industry and builds confidence amongst dealers. CEAT for example recently issued a statement that they are partnering with Royal Enfield for providing tyres for the Interceptor. This in itself is a big thing because the customer is usually expecting the premium Interceptor to come with Pirelli units. From what we hear, there is no difference in the price so it isn’t like the customer is going to benefit from the lower cost.
Aftermarket, the Indian tyres will definitely be affordable than the imported units. Whether or not they provide the same ride quality, grip in wet as well as dry is something only a proper test will ascertain. Let us know if you as a customer are using an India-made tyre in your premium bike and are happy with its performance. Who knows, your review might help like-minded people.
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