Eric Buell Racing’s (EBR) sudden bankruptcy announcement in the U.S. has altered Hero MotoCorp’s original plan of foraying into the quarter-litre motorcycle category.
The largest two-wheeler manufacturer in the world by volume had plans of stepping into the midsized motorcycle category with its four-stroke, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, 249cc, fully-faired HX250R model by Q2-Q3 FY2015-16. However, according to sources aware of the development of Hero’s 250cc sportsbike, which is in its advanced stages of completion, the project launch is now expected to be delayed.
“The EBR-led 250cc motorcycle was absolutely in the advanced stages of its development, and the company had positioned the commercial launch of this model for roughly end-Q2 or Q3 of FY2015-16 as per the original launch plan. However, with EBR’s bankruptcy, the HX250R model will now see a delay by a quarter or so,” disclosed a source who requested anonymity.
The company is now expected to use its own available research and development resources to complete the project. Interestingly, the upcoming R&D centre at Kukas, near Jaipur still remains under construction, and is expected to commence operations later this year.
“Hero MotoCorp is always on a lookout for partners on the R&D and technical assessment front. It is understood that the company is looking at external help to complete the pending crucial project (HX250R), this may take some time. Honda, on the other hand, which has its own 250cc model in the market, will get some lead time to boost its falling sales in that category,” points out another source.
Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) is present in the 250cc category through its air-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder, 249.6cc CBR250R model. The Japanese company had launched the CBR250R in India in 2011 and since then the model has seen a few refreshes mostly in the form of new paint schemes. While the model failed to make its mark in terms of sales in its category, SIAM industry data points out that HMSI had sold 7,669 CBR250R bikes in India during FY2013-14. However, annual sales of this model for FY2014-15 dropped to 1,678 units.
Once launched, Hero MotoCorp’s HX250R would be a direct rival to Honda’s CBR250R. Among other fully-faired motorcycles in competition in the Indian market would be Kawasaki’s Ninja 300, Bajaj Auto’s Pulsar RS200 and KTM RC200, and Hyosung’s GT250R.
It can be recalled that Hero MotoCorp had displayed the pre-production model of the HX250R at the Auto Expo in Delhi last year along with a number of other concept two-wheelers. The company has announced that it will invest Rs 3,000 crore over FY2015-16 and FY2016-17 to boost its R&D capabilities, capacity expansion and fund the ongoing projects among other crucial areas. Of this, Rs 700 crore is routed towards building the R&D facility at Kukas.