Thursday, 31 August 2017

Ben's Corner #8: Royal Enfield's flagship in the offing


Recently a video surfaced on Youtube where a KTM Duke 390 rider was chasing a test bike supposed to be the upcoming Royal Enfield Continental GT 750 somewhere near Salem. While there were many such videos on the internet, this one went viral because even at speeds in the ball park of 155 Kmph, the Duke rider was not able to chase the bike on test. Not only that, at one part of the video, the gap even widened further between the two. With this video at hand, it is very clear that the test bike is capable of going past 155 Kmph.

Source: Royal Enfield official website
For starters, the Continental GT 750 is rumoured to be the upcoming flagship motorcycle from the stables of Royal Enfield. For the past couple of years the top brass at Royal Enfield have been constantly hinting about the company's entry into the middleweight segment to compete in the international market. GT 750 is likely to be the first product of their ambition. Various sources say the bike sports a twin cylinder layout with a 600 or 750 cc engine capable of churning out more than 40 bhp.

Time and again Royal Enfield was not able to taste success with any of their offerings other than the Classic and Thunderbird series. Though bikes like Standard and Electra are doing decent numbers, their latest offerings Continental GT 500 and Himalayan in which they invested maximum time and effort turned out to be disastrous.

The Continental GT 500 was India's first cafe racer in the recent times with a biggest engine in its class displacing 535 cc. The bike didn't find many takers because it didn't follow the principles of cafe racer culture where a bike should do a top speed of 160 Kmph. To make matters worse, its acceleration was also not also not up to the mark taking more than 10 seconds to hit the ton. As of now, the GT 500 is doing dismissal numbers.

Himalayan was Royal Enfield's latest kid on the block. Sporting an out-of-the-box rugged looks, it turned out to be the country's first adventure bike and an advanced bike in Royal Enfield standards. It was the first bike from the brand to sport Single Overhead Camshaft (SOHC), oil cooler, counter balancer and rear monoshock. The bike had a lot of issues with certain customers in the north even suing the brand. To prevent further damage to their reputation, Royal Enfield discontinued Himalayan in April this year. But they are soon going to roll out an updated model with Fuel injection and AHO adhering to BS IV emission norms.

So, right now, Royal Enfield is facing a tough situation where their next product should definitively deliver on both quality and performance aspects. Coming to their upcoming bike GT 750, the brand is testing two variants, a normal cafe racer and classic bike similar to that of Triumph Boneville as per recent spy shots. Forgetting the brand's past, this bike has good prospects of striking the right chord with buyers if Royal Enfield prices it around Rs 2 lakh. As the test bike is capable of doing more than 155 Kmph, the GT 750 will, indeed, live up to the 'cafe racer' tag.

Are they lethargic?

In a recent media interview, reporters asked Royal Enfield CEO Siddhartha Lal what he feels about the non-equity partnership between legendary British motorcycle maker Triumph and Bajaj for the development a lazy style motorcycle targeting Royal Enfield. To this, the top brass replied, 'Neither for technology nor for manufacturing, Royal Enfield need a partnership. The kind of work Royal Enfield is doing in product technology and development over the past 2-3 years, it does not see any need for a partnership.' With this, the CEO indirectly hinted that brand's current set of technologies will be carried forward in the future.

What's cooking at Chakan?

When Volkswagen group decided to sell their legendary sports bike brand Ducati, various rumours said Bajaj was about to buy it. But in a simple press meet organised recently, Bajaj CEO Rajiv Bajaj disclosed a non-equity partnership with British brand Triumph. Unlike various other partnerships, this can be attributed as one of the bests moves in the auto industry. All this time, Bajaj never had a lazy style motorcycle and Triumph couldn't able make their lazy style motorcycles affordable for Indians. But when a Trimuph is made in India that too at Bajaj's Chakan plant, aggressive pricing is rest assured. With this, the duo can easily tackle Royal Enfield's products worldwide in price needless to say about quality and technology.

- S Ben Raja,
Chennai, August 31, 2017.

The above review/analysis is completely the perception of S Ben Raja alone. This does not reflect the views of two or more people or a community. Queries and criticism shall be addressed to the writer only. This author is correspondent for an English daily working on auto beat stories for over a year. Reach him at benraja4@gmail.com.

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