Bajaj Auto is eyeing a bigger role in the premium motorcycle segment. In fact, the company aspires to manufacture higher displacement (above 390cc) KTM bikes in India for the domestic as well as global market. The confidence stems from the fact that Bajaj Auto rolled out the millionth KTM motorcycle manufactured in India from its plant on January 20, 2023.
Speaking to the media at the roll-out of the millionth made-in-India KTM motorcycle, Rajiv Bajaj said that Bajaj Auto and its plant were more than ready to manufacture higher displacement motorcycles. It was now upto the KTM management to decide and give the go-ahead.
If one looks at the present sales trend in the two-wheeler space, there is a small but growing segment of customers who are looking for premium higher-displacement engine bikes, and the KTM name is missing in the segment. An introduction of powerful KTM bikes would mean, that in addition to its existing customer base looking to move to more powerful machines, it also provides an opportunity for new customers to join the KTM family.
Partnership and confidence
It was in 2007, that Bajaj Auto and KTM formed a partnership when the former picked up 14.5 percent stake in the Austrian bike maker and introduced the brand in India. Going forward, Bajaj Auto increased its stake to 48 percent. In 2021, the shareholding was simplified when it swapped 46.5 percent of its holding to gain a 49.9 percent stake in PTW Holding (KTM group’s parent company).
At present, Bajaj Auto manufactures small-displacement KTM and Husqvarna motorcycles upto 390cc at its Chakan plant for domestic as well as global markets.
The partnership with Bajaj Auto has also proved very fruitful for KTM, with sales crossing almost 400,000 units, which is the highest for the brand in its history. In fact, the introduction of lower displacement and a wide range of products has helped KTM to become the world’s largest premium bikemaker (in terms of volume).
Future products and electrification
There is no doubt that the Bajaj-KTM story is one of the most successful partnership stories not just in India but globally. Bajaj believes that the alliance has inspired/motivated many such partnerships globally.
While the KTM management has been tight-lipped about future product launches in India, it is evident that in addition to launching new refreshes and updates, the possibility of higher displacement and electric two-wheelers in inevitable.
On one hand, while the partners are closely working for developing the first electric motorcycle offering, the Chetak e-scooter is something that KTM now aims to sell in the European market.
Stefan Pierer, CEO, Pierer Mobility confirmed the co-development of 48V electrified powertrain, but refused to share a tentative timeline on the introduction of the product. He believes that at present, the lithium-ion battery technology is not suitable for the motorcycle segment, as ensuring similar performance and range to its IC counterpart would mean adding too much weight in the form on the battery.
On the other hand, when queried about the potential of battery-swapping technology, Pierer said that KTM had already tested such a concept but did not find it feasible in the motorcycle segment.