A few days ago, Kawasaki revealed their new RR Mono, a strangely named motorcycle by Team Green's naming conventions. The 28PS 250cc single-cylinder sportsbike is to go on sale in Indonesia this month. As of now, the Mono is intended, say Kawasaki, for production only in Indonesia. Kawasaki also unveiled the Z250 in November 2013 at the Tokyo Motor Show. This one has a 250cc parallel twin taken from the old Ninja 250R and it makes 32PS. I have been reading enthusiastic claims from all manner of places that either this one, or the other, or both are coming to India between sometime next week and three days after Christmas 2014.
So we called up India Kawasaki Motors, who said, "We don't understand where this question is coming from. We have not given any indications about either motorcycle at all. Obviously we are considering what products can work in India and all of that, but we have never indicated to anyone any plans about either motorcycle." I paraphrase a little bit, but that is the gist of it.
So let us speculate a little bit, shall we?
Kawasaki Ninja RR Mono
Whether Kawasaki brings the Z250 or the RR Mono, they will have to homologate both for Indian sale because they're obviously not over 800cc in displacement. On the other hand, while the RR Mono is a completely new motorcycle, the Z250 might actually have an easier time because it is based on the same powertrain as the Ninja 250R which was homologated for sale in India.
On the other hand, selling either in India means India Kawasaki will have to provision their distribution network with spares and service capability. If they stick to their current model, that means all KTM dealerships (aka Bajaj Pro-Biking) will have to go through service training, which is quite an effort to make for low volume products. How much effort? So much that, for instance, Kawasaki is till reluctant to sell the full range of colours on most of their bikes because of the logisitics of carrying the spares in the right colours for easy availability.
Seriously, what kind of name is that. Focus. The RR Mono (see full story here) features a new single cylinder 250cc motor that makes 28PS. The frame is a steel trelllis, also new. If you think about it, this is almost the same spec as the Honda CBR250R, also a faired 250cc trellis-framed sportsbike, except for the slightly higher power output. It's easy to understand then why everyone is so excited about this motorcycle. But the fact of the matter is, that it isn't that simple.
You see, if Kawasaki were to sell the RR Mono here, it would have to be at a price in the same ballpark as the Honda, right? Now the Honda is actually manufactured here. Which means if Kawasaki choose to do a CKD assembly operation, they will not be able to make the Rs 1.5 lakh ex-showroom price tag the RR Mono needs to arrive at for commercial success. And that is before we get into the fact that the CKD will need to originate in Thailand (because our FTA with them makes for a massive duty cut) to keep prices low. I could be wrong but I don't think we have an FTA with Indonesia where the RR Mono, as of today, is being produced.
Why can't they produce it here? Because that means they have to talk to OEM suppliers, put in place quality checks and supply arrangements plus get into actual series manufacturing which is quite a bit more complex than a CKD operation.
The best case scenario is that Kawasaki puts the RR Mono into regular production in India, using an expanded version of their Akurdi facility to manufacture it. And the RR Mono is sold through the KTM network at Rs 1.6 lakhs or thereabouts. This scenario will take nearly a year or thereabouts, my guesstimate, to fully materialise at the earliest if at all. Which means three days from Christmas 2014 would be a minor miracle.
The Z250 is an easier stretch. Homologation should be easier with the N250R powertrain and all that. Plus unlike the Suzuki Inazuma, this 250 makes a reasonable amount of power as well - 32PS!
However, if you import this twin and CKD assembly it, the price will fall roughly in the Ninja 300 minus fairing region. I'd say about Rs 3.2 to 3.6 lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai. That's a strange price. First it puts a naked, less powerful twin very close to a more powerful twin-cylinder sportsbike. India will, then, perceive the latter to be better value and ignore it. Second, it might kill the Suzuki Inazuma's anyway tiny market but it's such a small piece of the action that I would be surprised that anybody would think this is a worthwhile exercise.
India Kawasaki have a tough choice in front of them. They have the option of two 250s. The single has a fairing and could be priced right but the back end effort required is immense. The twin doesn't have a fairing and will automatically be priced 'wrong' though it'll be vastly easier to bring to market.
Which of these will come and when? No one can predict this with any hope of certainty.
Me? I would say India Kawasaki should work on expanding their network as well as plant and supply chain to manage local manufacturing. And then launch the RR Mono when they're ready, even if it is by end-2015. It'll be a savvy long term investment, the sort the Japanese tend to prefer. This is the good business solution. The ultimate solution, the hardest to do, would be to locally make the Z250 and ensure a price of Rs 2-2.4 lakh. That, will set the green cat firmly amongst the pigeons.