Superbike sales in India: An interesting analysis

I have never liked forum-style websites, they are usually either too chaotic, or too dictatorial. You may end up with just a stream of anonymous abuse directed at your mother and/or other female relatives, or as is more common, you may get a sort of nerdocracy, where established users try their best to make you feel like scum.

Team-bhp is different. Like Wikipedia, they consistently produce far better content than their competition that employ paid writers. The “they” of Team-bhp is just a bunch of random members, in an old style semi-anonymous forum structure, contributing for the fun, and the prestige.

Take for example this recent thread, on top of which this article is based. Someone has made the effort to compile the data from numbers already published on Autopunditz, which is another stellar website in its own way.

I believe Autopunditz gets their data from SIAM figures, and those figures are obviously also available to your Overdrives and your Autocars, but they can’t be bothered to do this type of level 1 journalism. To be fair to them, they didn’t even think the multiple instances of MG Hectors burning down was something newsworthy, neither Autocar nor Overdrive have a SINGLE article on it, so perhaps we’re expecting too much from them.

I wanted to add on the Team-bhp analysis, including a summary of what’s in there. Keep in mind that these numbers are the units sent from the factory to the dealerships, not from dealerships to customers.

Also, to clarify the obvious, “superbike” here means anything above 600cc, not restricted to sportbikes only.

1. The total

The total premium motorcycles sales in India, for the whole of 2019, stood at a ridiculously pathetic 5350.

Yes, that’s 5350 from all companies, combined, for the entire 2019.

This represents a 17% decline from 2018, when 6457 units were sold, but that number may be slightly misleading as we’ll see later.

These numbers don’t include data from Ducati and BMW, because they can’t be arsed to care. No unoffical numbers are available for Ducati, but BMW superbike sales are expected to be in the 300-400 unit range for 2019.

Others like MV Agusta, Indian, Aprilia, CFMoto, Moto Guzzi etc. are almost non-existent. Benelli may have a little bit of sales, but I haven’t seen any proper numbers floating around.

A giant brand that continues to not give a shit about India, is Yamaha. Their biggest bike in India is the largely forgotten R3, and they continue to survive only on the R15 and FZ, with a sprinkle of scooties.

2. The big sellers

The top 5 big bikes by sales in 2019 were:

a. Harley Davidson Street 750 – 1123
b. Kawasaki Z900 – 411
c. Harley Davidson Street Rod – 355
d. Kawasaki Ninja 1000 – 262
e. Suzuki Hayabusa – 232

The Street 750 sold just slightly less than all the remaining 4 in this list combined. I don’t really understand how that’s possible, the entire point of buying a Harley seems to be the entry it gets you in the world of HOGs. But all the HOGs that I have met absolutely detest Street 750 owners, treating them like glorified Royal Enfield wankers, unworthy of the Harley tag. It would seem that the perceived prestige of buying a Street 750 outweighs the fear of social bullying.

The Z900 being popular makes sense, it gives you the big bike feels, and is very competitively priced when compared to the competition from Triumph and Honda. I’m surprised that it beat all the 650s though, their sales have gone down dramatically, except the Versys 650.

Bike20182019
Ninja 650491195
Z65018467
Vulcan S185135
Versys 65079147

I don’t really pay much attention to Harleys, so don’t know much about the Street Rod, but apparently it’s just a slightly fancier, and costlier 750, which would explain why it’s selling rather well.

The Ninja 1000 is another one of those beauties from Kawasaki, enormous, good looking, and very well priced. It obviously made it close to the top here.

Hayabusa being here is strange, it’s kind of embarrassing, because I know why it’s here. It’s here because Indians still connect it to Dhoom, and that image of fake masculinity. I just hadn’t expected that so many of us felt inadequate enough with our manhoods that so many Busas could sell.

3. How the hell does Triumph live on?

Triumph managed to sell only 614 bikes in 2019. They have a network of 18 dealers in the country, with those numbers I just don’t understand how the company and the dealer network is surviving. Sure they have signed an agreement with Bajaj, but it’ll take years to produce something. Will they just keep waiting to make a profit, laying all their hopes on a product not yet even conceived?

4. The Royal Enfield mystery

The 2018 version of this analysis included the Royal Enfield 650 twins, but the 2019 one does not. No reason has been specified for this.

An argument could be made that the RE twins aren’t really superbikes, but I’d say that’s rather silly. The most likely reason I believe they weren’t included in the list, is because their sales numbers are absolutely staggering.

Royal Enfield managed to sell a total of 20331 units of the 650 twins last year.

This is based on the data from Autopunditz, and includes both the Interceptor and the GT. This number is approximate, because Autopunditz didn’t share the sales numbers for November 2019.

In any case, that’s about 4 times the sales of all the other companies combined, a ridiculous number when compared to the market. Adding this data to the 2019 sales list would have made the whole thing rather meaningless.

I have no love for Royal Enfield, but they have my respect for what they’ve done with the 650s. A good sounding, relatively reliable, extremely well priced machine with a twin engine, RE couldn’t have done it any better.

5. Why the sadness?

Overall, the numbers are rather pathetic, if you count out the Royal Enfields. Makes you wonder why the companies even bother. It’s difficult to compare these numbers directly to another country’s, India a unique market, but for the size of it I’m quite disappointed with the total sales.

Why are the numbers so low? Well, as comfortable you and I may be, India is still predominantly a poor country. There just aren’t enough people who can justify buying a 10 lac machine, and then live with the running costs.

There’s no road infrastructure to speak of where you could properly enjoy these bikes anyways, a random pothole or a rogue speedbreaker is quite enough to cause major damage to these low-slung beauties. This significantly narrows the reasons why one would buy these things, showing off is easier to justify compared to improving your skills.

But the reason I hope more of them would be sold, is because if more are sold, the prices will come down, and that starts a positive feedback loop. The reason these bikes are so costly now is because they are exotic, once the numbers go up the novelty will go away, and they’ll get more affordable.

At least that’s what I hope, because that’s the only way I’m ever going to be able to afford one.

6 thoughts on “Superbike sales in India: An interesting analysis”

  1. It’s not as simple as it looks. The high procurement cost and the poor infrastructure part aside (which in itself are the two biggest deterrents for most people). It is also the extremely high maintenance cost of superbikes which restricts owning of these bikes to nothing more than Sunday breakfast ride ‘hobby’. I wish to buy a Triumph every day and despite the fact that i can take the plunge with some due considerations, I am not able to convince myself. Mainly because when I ride down to nearby hills with my friends, I have this constant fear that the smallest of wear and tear will be catastrophic not just on my pocket but on the entire experience of fellow riders. You won’t be able to find mechanics and parts are not easily available.

    It’s also not very easy to live with a superbike in India. You invest north of 7 lakhs on your dream bike and then dont take it out because it’s either too hot or raining or cold or the traffic sucks or you fear being stranded in the middle of nowhere in case of any unfortunate incident happening to your beloved machine. Of course in my personal humble opinion.

    1. We do have a bike now which can serve as a daily superbike.
      But it doesnt sell because it lacks that big bike look and inline 4 scream.

      *Drum Roll*

      Its the Duke 790, cheaper to maintain, higher FE than others in the same class, class leading insane 186mm ground clearance(What is a pothole/speed crusher ?), usable and spacious rider and pillion seats, 15K KM SVC interval, very light and nimble, comes with top electronic aids which are switchable.

      It can do commutes, track days and some touring, if you are still not convinced then name one other bike which ticks all those boxes and is available on road under 10 lac.

        1. Considering how it has sold i am not quite hopeful for a massive strategy shift in how the 790 is positioned and priced.

          The BS4 variant is on offer right now with 1 lac off. If someone wants the 790, he should just go ahead and get it.

          Also to note the BS6 version comes in the gaudy color scheme, getting rid of the black rims and silver/aluminium finished rear chassis. It gets Orange rims and the aluminium sub frame is coated matte black now 😐

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