BMW Motorrad's entry into India is turning out to be a saga. The initial hype surrounded the significant drops in prices as BMW transitioned from the monopolistic pricing of its Indian importer to the more rational - but still expensive - prices for the ex-Munich models that are on sale today. But the real masala dish on simmer are the Indian-made 310cc models. BMW and TVS are working this project together with BMW running development an quality control while TVS manufactures BMW and TVS versions of the motorcycle in India for exports and for domestic consumption. And that is where the trouble is brewing for the Indian enthusiasts waiting for these bikes.
The carbon-clad TVS Akula from the 2016 Auto Expo was the star of the show
The good news is that we have confirmation - as we reported earlier - that the first TVS from this project, the Akula 310 or the Apache RTR 300 RR S as its rumoured to be called, is ready. The launch is likely next month, once the chaos and buzz of the festive season dies down a little. We did get a glimpse in fair detail of the motorcycle in a spy shot. But having waited since the 2016 Auto Expo, we are happy to report that the Akula is almost here now.
BMW has categorically ruled out the launch of the G 310 R in India for this calendar year. Head of BMW Motorrad sales region Asia, China, Pacific and South Africa, Dimitris Raptis told OVERDRIVE that the launch should happen as early possible in 2018 but given how many systems are in play, "it would be safe to say that definitely the bike will be launched in the second half of 2018." When asked which bike he meant, Raptis said, "Both!" implying the G 310 R as well as the G 310 GS.
The GS debuted at the Intermot Show in Cologne, Germany last year and OVERDRIVE was live form the event. It uses the same platform and engine as the R but it uses longer travel suspension to create a more versatile, more off-road friendly package. Indeed, the initial reports from international media rides have uniformly been positive. The new gearbox, in fact, was singularly praised as being excellent, while the R's gearbox was reportedly more troublesome.
Raptis also underlined that BMW Motorrad India intends for these two models to offer the premium experience that the company aims for. And that also points to a price strategy which is unlikely to toe the line that KTM india , for instance, has drawn for motorcycles of roughly this displacement class.
The company refused to comment on this so far, no surprise, but BMW Motorrad has been extraordinarily cautious about the Indian market since the TVS arrangement was created. On the one hand, this underlines how vital India seems to be to the BMW Motorrad plans and how much pressure they're putting on themselves to not make any mistakes at all. On the flip side of that coin, is the fact that their Indian-made bikes appear to be available everywhere but in India. Sigh.
The primary reason seems to be a decision that BMW Motorrad has made to offer Indian customers a world-class sales and service experience. We are told that this isn't marketing spiel, it's the real thing and that's what is causing the delays.
Raptis also clarified that the India operation is unique. Never before has the company had to set up systems in a country as large as India while also dealing with motorcycle made there. That and Indian regulatory requirements are part of why there is a delay.
BMW Motorrad is creating the Indian network from scratch and currently only sells a handful of the big-engine models that come from Germany. The smaller Thai models and the smallest Indian-made models are still missing from the range. The concern appears to be that the launch of the R and the GS and the expectation of great demand even if the prices are high might put BMW Motorrad India behind the quality curve in terms of customer satisfaction.
The need to and the seriousness about nailing every part of the BMW experience for Indian customers is an admirable goal. Especially in an environment where Indian customers routinely complain of high service costs when the actual cost versus other markets are very low. However, BMW Motorrad might be rubbing a whole bunch of enthusiasts who have set their sights on the 310s as their next dream wheels. The wait is frustrating. One cannot fault BMW Motorrad India either.
The Indian premium motorcycle market is just about getting going and will be one of the world's most important premium motorcycle markets in the years to come. Unfortunately for the enthusiast, while the motorcycles are fast and flashy, the motorcycle markets itself is neither of those two. It's a long game.
We're as frustrated as you are at how slowly BMW Motorrad India is moving and we wish they'd hurry up. But the BMW-TVS platform has the potential to be transformative to the German company in its global product spread, its sales volumes and much more. It's but natural that they'd want their strategy perfected and timed well.