Of late at the Motoroids office, we’ve been riddled with calls inquiring about the new crop of UM Motorcycles that will reportedly arrive in India sometime later this year. The range, which was displayed at the 2014 Auto Expo managed to create quite a stir. In fact, the relentless inquiries made us mull what would really work for them in this extremely competitive market. Their original strategy was to develop and manufacture all-new, localized 300-500cc cruisers for India. Are they on the right track?
UM Motorcycles are a US based motorcycle outfit that predominantly deals with lower capacity bikes ranging from 100cc to 230cc – perfect playing ground for developing markets with population issues like ours. Their current range, which includes affordable, yet stylish street bikes, cruiser and even motocross specimens, is quite unique and vast – do give them a look once you’re done reading this.
The Indian connection
UM recently signed a strategic joint venture agreement with Lohia Auto (erstwhile LML- they make half baked electric two-wheelers now) which envisions the formation of a JV company, named UML, with a 50-50 partnership between the two companies. After revealing the Renegade cruiser at the 2014 Delhi Auto Expo, the company’s market research revealed that an all-new range of bikes, based on an all-new platform, will be a better option instead of the Renegade.
The company also revealed that it is working on up to 500cc bikes, and will roll out its first product in the second quarter of 2015. Initially, UM plans to launch affordable cruisers in the 300-500cc range and intends to enter other segments at a later stage. To make these bikes affordable, the company is aiming to achieve up to 70% localization level.
The product strategy
We know that manufacturers tend to test waters in new markets by introducing their halo products first followed by the bread and butter earners later, just to boost their image and showcase their capabilities. Enthusiasts apart, their current crop of 100-230 cc motorcycles manage to strike a chord with the average Indian biker’s preliminary wants – those big bike aping looks, the affordability and more importantly, all bear pint sized, frugal drive-trains of which every Indian approves.
While the ploy to enter the higher range is arguably apt, it may backfire too. The 300-500cc range will have very few takers given the cost conscious mindset of the Indian customer. There is a good possibility that they will be evaded by aware enthusiasts, who will prefer settling for already established players like Royal Enfield and KTM. Soon, even Harley Davidson will join the party with the Street 500, which means UM will have to fend for themselves in the big, bad world solely for themselves with their still-to-be born cruising contender.
Alternatively, coaxing an average Indian biker to buy the 175cc Renegade, who’s already enamored by it, seems like a healthier proposition, rather than selling a heavily localized, built-to-cost specimen to the well versed enthusiast, even though they might be costing a smidgen less than competition. By developing all-new India-specific, medium capacity motorcycles, UM wants to up their image, and best of luck to them for that, but with the current field that they have, we see a lot more potential.
Um have a wide product lineup, and we have done another story listing all their products. Do have a look, and share with us you opinion on which of the UM products should be brought to the Indian market first.