Commuters vs. Enthusiasts: A deeper analysis



This is quite a common discussion in the 1 Whatsapp group that I’m a part of (yes I’m back on Whatsapp shut up). It’s also a common question in Team-bhp.

Why do auto companies keep producing commuter garbage, and keep disappointing enthusiasts?

Hero for example has only 1 enthusiast bike, the Xpulse. They are a gigantic corporation, they have previously fucked around with those Hastur and HX250 concepts, but never done anything in reality. Why?

To answer the question, I picked up the factory to dealer sales data from Autopunditz, which was a giant pain in the ass. Then I ran some analytics on it.

For 2018, 2019, and 2020, for each individual month, I marked each individual 2 wheeler as either a commuter or an enthusiast vehicle. This included scooters as well. I then plotted charts.

There’s a certain level of subjectivity in deciding what’s an enthusiast vehicle though, here for example I’ve decided NTorq is, but FZ 150 is not. The overall picture does not change a whole lot with these changes though.

Here’s a chart comparing the monthly sales of commuter 2 wheelers vs. enthusiast 2 wheelers over the last 3 years:

It’s difficult to describe how pathetic the sales for enthusiast bikes are. It is difficult to plot them on the same chart, there’s more than an order of magnitude difference between them.

For example, the most number of enthusiast bikes sold in a single month over the last 3 years was 66,798 in Oct 2020. The most number of commuter bikes sold in a single month is 2,071,480 in September 2018.

Yes that’s 66 thousand versus 2 million 71 thousand.

Another way to look at that is for every enthusiast motorcycle sold, 30 commuter bike sales are recorded.

Here’s another graph that plots what percentage of total 2 wheeler bikes sold in India over the last 3 years were enthusiast machines:

5.85%, that’s the maximum percentage that enthusiast bikes have ever managed to be of the total 2 wheelers sold in India, most of the time it’s only between 2 and 3%.

It is true that enthusiast bikes will usually be more profitable compared to commuter machines, but the difference in sales numbers is so huge that I do not think it makes much real world difference.

Honda for example has a huge presence in India, but primarily in the commuter segment. They could very easily bring over any of their vast selection of enthusiast machines and take market share from Kawasaki or Triumph, but why would they fucking bother? They are the market leaders, they are as profitable right now as they can be, why would they risk investing for such a small reward potential?

The problem with us enthusiasts is that we live in a bubble with other enthusiasts. We see other people complaining about GNCAP 2 and 3 star crash ratings, we see other people cry about the high premium for superbikes in India, this makes us believe that everyone is complaining or crying about these things. The vast majority are not.

We are like a group of cannibals, who keep wondering why supermarkets don’t keep human flesh around, they could make so much money on it!

Auto companies do not care about automobiles, they are places where rich people invest money to multiply it. It’s nothing more than a fluke of chance that Bajaj makes bikes, or Hyundai makes cars, it’s just that these companies have developed expertise over the years in those fields, so they will keep doing it, until it’s profitable.

None of the powerful decision makers in any motorcycle company give a single fuck about motorcycles. From time to time they might try to make it look like they do, by posing with a machine or going for a ride or two. They are business tasks for them, it’s entirely meaningless.

In some ways that’s a good thing, like a good surgeon you’d want your company to be run by a bunch of psychopaths to maximize profits. That’s why the world is the way it is.

That’s also why we need to understand that no matter how much we shout about a 650 twin based Himalayan, it ain’t gonna fucking happen.

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  1. lancia_fanboy

    While I agree with your view that yeah, everything’s a business, the point that enthusiasts bike won’t be made in numbers is something I’ll disagree with.

    It’s true that companies that cater to this segment often bleed money, but the R&D that’s derived from them and the attractiveness they provide to the company’s brand value is something that’s a bit difficult to quantify just because of sales.

    An example can be found in the car world, Cayenne wouldn’t have old much if it was from Ford or even lincoln. The car saved porsche, but the car also sold because of Porsche. (Cayenne is not enthusiast in my opinion)

    Indian automobile scene is at the precipice of changing, because it’s now that Disposable income is rising at scale, and it can be seen.
    Bajaj might only be making Dominar, but they’re guiding Triumph and KTM both monetarily and might I say, philosophically too (Cheaper bikes).

    1. AK

      Yeah I’d agree with that. I think it boils down to the definition of “enthusiast” for you, it can all be very subjective. I wanted to include the actual data in there from where I made my conclusions, but that would’ve taken too much time with the whole bunch of different Excel sheets I had to use.

      1. Bunty_chor

        Stop wasting your time on whatsapp