TWO-WHEELER major Bajaj Auto is looking for a big-ticket acquisition in the European motorcycle market. According to sources in the auto industry, cult bike companies Ducati Motor Holding of Italy and Triumph Motorcycles of the UK are among the possible targets. When contacted, Bajaj Auto MD Rajiv Bajaj refused to comment.
Bajaj Auto—the market leader in the performance segment in India, thanks to Pulsar twins and Avenger—has been looking for an alliance or acquisition to possess enough engineering and product development expertise to crank out cruisers and higher displacement bikes in the 200 cc plus range. Bajaj Auto’s reported talks with Japanese major Yamaha were also centred around sharing technology and expertise for bigger bikes while offering engineering, manufacturing expertise and scale for smaller motorcycles.
A big-ticket European brand like Ducati or Triumph will not only give Bajaj products in the premium lifestyle range in India but also a vehicle to drive export growth in the developed markets of the west.
Ducati, the Bologna (Italy)-based motorcycle major, is a e95.4 million company that clocked about e10 million in operating profits in the first quarter of the calendar year. Its product roster includes such ever-green classics as the Monster (dubbed the ‘original naked bike’), the Multistrada and the 1098 super bike. Nearly all its products are in the 700 cc and above range and the brand has a formidable reputation in the MotoGP series as well.
As for Triumph, this cult bike company is all British with a plant in Hinckley. Its roster includes everything from the iconic Bonneville of the 60s to the latest range including the Rocket III and the Speed Triple. The £165-million company has cruisers, urban sports bikes and other lifestyle products in its range including apparel and accessories, as does Ducati.Bajaj Auto has been getting increasingly aggressive with its bike retail channel Probiking and Mr Bajaj has been on record to say that the company will crank out more products to stock its Probiking shelves. Bajaj Auto has taken the view that entrylevel four-stroke motorcycles will become defunct as the second largest bike market in the world moves towards performance.
The motorcycle market in India has been facing volume and margin pressure with all bike biggies rationalising production. In the first quarter, Bajaj Auto averaged about 165,000 a month and top officials say it will end the first half of this year with a million motorcycle sales. The company is all set to launch its new entry-level bike in the next couple of months and expects to clock around 200,000-250,000 motorcycles a month in the second half ending the year with around 2.5 million motorcycles.