India recently displaced China as the top motorcycle maker in the world, after selling 17.5 million (1.75 crore) motorcycles during 2016-17. Growing demand for two-wheelers in India added to local manufacturers partnering with international motorcycle makers has taken the country its lead position. India beat China by nearly 9 lakh units to top the motorcycle manufacturing chart. While the majority of top-selling products have been low-capacity motorcycles in the 100cc to 125cc segment, Royal Enfield motorcycles are the only ones with engines exceeding 300cc to feature among the top 10.
The reason that India has high sales of the sub-125cc machines is that motorcycles, as well as scooters in this category, are a popular form of transport for a large section of the 1.3 billion Indians, rather than a luxury, in the absence of good public transport systems across the country. China which faced a similar predicament has recently announced a move to more energy-efficient modes of transport, taking away its edge and subsequently its lead in motorcycle manufacture.
Another factor for this growth in the motorcycle market stems from the push of better policy on the construction of national roads. With the central government announcing that national highways and expressways across the country would be built at a rate of 41km per day, more and better infrastructure to support riding larger capacity motorcycles is also coming up at a good pace.
This coupled with announcements by various local manufacturers tying up for joint manufacture and/or sales of motorcycles in the country as well as overseas has boosted the market and could help keep the boom going in the future.
Most recently, Bajaj Auto and British Motorcycle maker Triumph Motorcycles announced a non-equity partnership to jointly produce mid-capacity motorcycles for India as well as international markets. Bajaj has earlier seen success with the local manufacture of mid-capacity motorcycles such as the Duke and RC for Austrian motorcycle maker KTM, in which the former has 48 per cent stake now. Similarly, Mahindra Two-wheelers had earlier announced taking over legendary Brit brand BSA, as well as Czech motorcycle label Jawa.
There has been also a push by international manufacturers such as Harley-Davidson, which just showcased a new line of motorcycles to produce mid-to-large capacity motorcycles in India for consumption in local and international markets. This push for manufacture may be attributed to the government's 'Make in India' campaign, as also the low cost of labour in the country.