Benelli revs ahead, expands portfolio, dealership in India
• Launches its first ‘neo-retro’ motorcycle Leoncino 500;
• Three more new products likely by year-end;
• Aggressive plans for 2020 including 60 dealership points;
• Jacks up local assembly at the Hyderabad facility.
The legendary Italian motorcycle brand Benelli scripted a vigorous comeback last year in the Indian market. In one year the company has made exceptional progress by building up its manufacturing and service capacities and gaining customer trust. With the ‘big-bike’ segments expanding gradually, with decent sales growth year-on-year and proliferated competition among multiple brands, Benelli India is constantly expanding its reach in the local market with aggressive strategies for product portfolio, customer engagement and satisfaction, and localised assembly by 2020.
Managing Director Vikas Jhabakh is pleased the way the brand has made such a strong comeback in India. In an exclusive interaction with Automotive Script at the launch of Benelli Leoncino 500 in Chennai, he said, “It is satisfying the way the Indian market and customers have responded to Benelli’s new innings. We commenced our sales from the start of January 2019 and have sold around 1,000 units till July. We are bullish to finish this year with 1,000 more units. For next year our target is to sell 10,000 -12,000 units. This may sound ambitious, but that’s the pace at which the brand is growing in India”.
Since the brand’s re-launch in August 2018, many things were done to lay a strong foundation in the local market. He said the company has reduced the service costs of the motorcycles by 30 percent, along with cheaper and easy availability of spares across the country. Starting with just eight dealers a year ago, the count now stands at 19 across 18 different cities. Another 12-13 dealerships will be added before the end of this year.
“Benelli is perhaps the only premium motorcycle brand in the country to offer an extensive warranty package up to 5 years irrespective of the odo miles. This has greatly helped us regain trust in the brand and get very positive feedback from the buyers”, he said. Benelli India is also consistently expanding its product portfolio. The brand was re-launched with three models: TNT 300, 302R, and TNT 600i. TRK 502 and TRK 502 X joined the fray in February this year. With the launch of the latest Leoncino 500, the products count now stands at six.
Jhabakh revealed that three more new motorcycles are up on the anvil. Two models are in the 250 cc segment and the third is the all-new Benelli Imperiale400 in the commuter cruiser segment. They will be launched before the end of this year. “Our aim is to have a balanced product line-up in the 250 – 600cc categories, which will aid the great mix of buyers whom we meet these days”, he said.
For 2020, Benelli India is formulating aggressive plans to its success to the next level. “This includes taking up the dealership count to 60 in over 50 different cities, with a better geographical spread across tier 1 and tier 2 cities”, the MD said. He added that new products will be added as well, with the upcoming Imperiale 400 and 250cc models to drive volumes for the brand in 2020. “Lower displacement bikes and new iterations are what we are looking forward to introduce in the Indian market, that’s where the traction is going to be in the premium motorcycle segment”, he said.
Moreover, Benelli India has invested over Rs 40 crore in its Hyderabad facility, whose initial annual capacity to assemble 3,000 units is being scaled up to 20,000 units. “The assembly will be gradually jacked up to roll out 40,000 units”, Jhabakh said. The Chinese-owned brand is importing CKD units of motorcycles from its plants in Italy and China, which are then assembled in India. “Our product strategy is going to remain the same for some time now, although a certain level of localisation is yet to be achieved among lower displacement models”, he said.
As the domestic demand in the premium and semi-premium motorcycle segments is immense and is projected to grow in the upcoming years, the company is not going to focus on exports from India.
About the impacts of the on-going market slowdown in the automotive industry, Jhabakh said the motorcycle segments in which Benelli operates remains largely unaffected. “This is definitely a tough time for the industry, but the upcoming festive season is likely to see some boost in sales. I am optimistic that as an industry we can come out of this downtrend in the coming quarter or the one after”.
The Legend Is Back
With over a century of heritage and inspiration to draw from, Benelli has managed to re-imagine one of its most beloved motorcycles from its past era, the Leoncino. And it is done very brilliantly. The latest avatar perfectly matches the motorcycle’s sharp forms with harmonious lines while exuberating the pure emotion that Benelli is famous for.
Leoncino is now available in India in its 500 version, at an ex-showroom price of Rs 479,000. Although internationally offered in three variants, India gets only the standard variant to start with, in two colour schemes: Red and Steel Grey. Do look out for small sculpt of a Lion cub on the bike’s front fender, you can find that only in Leoncino, as the name literally means “Lion’s cub” in Italian.
“Leoncino combines tradition and passion with contemporary style, innovation and performance. The modern version is a pure makeover of the original model from the 1950s and is a tribute to a legend of Italian motorcycling who largely contributed to the history of the brand”, says Mr.Vikas Jhabakh, MD. It’s our strategic decision to bring some globally renowned models to the Indian market, he adds.
The legendry Leoncino 500 is powered by a 499.6cc liquid-cooled, fuel-injected twin-cylinder engine that generates 47.6hp and 45Nm of torque. The engine, paired to a 6-speed gearbox, sits within a tubular steel-trellis frame suspended on a 50mm inverted telescopic fork and pre-load adjustable mono-shock at the rear. The motorcycle gets 17-inch wheels equipped with ABS to complement a 320mm twin-disc brake in the front and a 260mm disc at the rear.