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Is American motoring dream coming to a complete end in India?

Is the American motoring dream in India coming to an abrupt and complete end? The answer looks affirmative. After the unceremonious exit of General Motors and Ford Motors’ complete sellout to Mahindra & Mahindra, the solitary American two-wheeler offering; Harley-Davidson is stopping production and scaling down operations to imported bikes only. This would leave the premium superbike market for the major European ones like Triumph, BMW, Ducati and Japanese rivals like Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki. How will the luxury bike market and overall auto market pan out in a complete absence of American players? Chanchal Pal Chauhan reports.

New Delhi: Harley-Davidson, the iconic American two-wheeler brand is changing its India strategy with topline only models and is planning to stop manufacturing from the local soil as it consolidates the operations as part of its global strategy to focus on its key global markets.

According to sources in the automobile industry, due to change in strategy Harley-Davidson does not want to expand any further and consolidate the operations in India. Off late, the premium bike segment has shrunk to a trickle after failing to fully expand to its potential.

Not more than 10,000 superbikes are sold in the world’s largest two-wheeler market which consumes more than 20-million units-a-year.

The top boss, its managing director Sajeev Rajasekharan, Managing Director, Asia Emerging Markets and India, Harley-Davidson is being transferred to Singapore as part of global restructuring. The India critical operations like ‘Sales’ is being pruned and looking at minimum manpower strength like Marketing & Service in Indian operations. The natural impact is coming into the critical dealer development functioning that would be run by a junior executive and as per internal sources Harley would be closing its India plant next month, depending on the administrative approvals.

The Indian operations of Harley-Davidson is a direct wholly-owned subsidiary of the parent Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Harley-Davidson India based in Gurgaon, Haryana, India commenced operations in August 2009 and appointed its first dealership in July 2010. It directly competed with the likes of other superbike brands like Triumph, Ducati and storied BMW in India.

Operating since 1903, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Harley-Davidson is a leading source of personal mobility by leading the innovation of two-wheeled mobility. Its India operations also include manufacturing of the India-specific Street-750 retailed at 5.34 lakh (ex-showroom). It sold mere 2,470 bikes in April to March 20 fiscal year. Sales came crashing in the April-June fiscal quarter to mere 106 bikes resulting in a massive decline of 87 percent compared to the previous year quarter.

Harley-Davidson manufactures and sells a variety of bikes riding from custom, cruiser and touring motorcycles. Many of these featuring edge styled, retro and modern designs are known for their distinctive sound with multiple personalization options that are expensive too.

It also operates Harley-Davidson Financial Services (HDFS) offering a line of financing options and insurance products and services to customers. HDFS also offered options of wholesale and retail financing in the Indian market and other programs to help get Harley-Davidson riders on the road.

An email to the company by ETAuto on its future strategy and action remained unanswered till the time of uploading the story on our digital platform. The American bike maker that got the vehicles emission norms relaxed in India for bigger bikes after a decade long hectic lobbying by the US government failed to respond to the ETAuto questionnaire on its future course in India.

According to its website the company offers an expanding range of leading-edge, distinctive and customizable motorcycles and brings the brand to life through Harley-Davidson riding experiences and exceptional motorcycle parts, accessories, riding gear and apparel. The company has more than 1,400 independently owned Harley-Davidson® dealerships in nearly 100 countries. The exact India number of Harley-Davidson could not be ascertained as many dealers are under constant financial strain and the entire automobile business in India is on a churn.

According to the company global portal, it is executing a set of actions, referred to as ‘The Rewire’, that will be further developed over the coming months, leading to a new strategic plan.

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