‘We are targeting rural India as well as Tier 1 and 2 cities with the Saluto RX commuter bike.’

Masaki Asano, managing director, Yamaha Motor India Sales, has been the driving force of the Japanese manufacturer in India. He spoke to Amit Panday on the sidelines of the launch of the 110cc Saluto RX in New Delhi on April 14.

Amit Panday By Amit Panday calendar 18 Apr 2016 Views icon5984 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
‘We are targeting rural India as well as Tier 1 and 2 cities with the Saluto RX commuter bike.’

Masaki Asano, managing director, Yamaha Motor India Sales, has been the driving force of the Japanese manufacturer in India. He spoke to Amit Panday on the sidelines of the launch of the 110cc Saluto RX in New Delhi on April 14. 

How crucial is the Saluto RX model for India Yamaha Motor?

We follow a pyramid strategy of a top-down product line. Last year we had introduced new models in the 125cc (commuter motorcycle segment) segment (Saluto 125). Now it was time to introduce a new model in the (mass) commuter segment (100cc-110cc). We want to be present in the commuter motorcycle space in India, which is one of the biggest markets in the world and so important for our future growth.

Unfortunately, earlier we were not prepared to compete in this segment especially in the rural areas. We are now ready to go to the rural pockets as well with this new model. The Saluto RX will not just cater to the population of rural India but also the young riders from big and small cities.

We did not have any connect in the commuter segment because we did not have any model for it other than the Crux earlier. The market keeps changing and we realised the time has come for us to launch a stylish commuter motorcycle model.

Why did you use the Saluto name to position your new 110cc model?

Saluto as a brand is progressing for us in terms of market demand. We produce motorcycles but Yamaha’s policy is not just to manufacture and sell two-wheelers but also to live in sync with Indian society, the people who are also our customers.

Saluto as a name has a very relevant meaning, which conveys respect and a salute to our population (or customers) here. We have immense respect for the country and the Indian culture. Our new commuter models are dedicated to the people of India and are named accordingly. We want to align our products with buyers of the commuter bike segment, which is a very large segment.

Was it a conscious decision to roll out a model in the 110cc class?

As you know, we have been doing well in the 150cc segment. Last year, we introduced new models in the 125cc segment. The basic commuter motorcycle segment flips between the 100cc and 110cc engine displacement, which has a large customer base. I believe that the 110cc engine, as in the Saluto RX, brings the right mix of power and fuel efficiency.

saluto-rx-low-res

Yamaha’s global mid-term plan for 2016 clearly states that the company will gun for volumes in India. While your scooters (Fascino followed by Ray Z) and the Saluto 125 models are performing well, and you have just launched a 110cc motorcycle, should we expect more volume-centric models this year or in the near term?

The Indian two-wheeler market size is close to 16 million units. The scooter segment, which has been growing well, accounts for close to 30 percent of that. The commuter motorcycle segment, on the other hand, which includes 100cc, 110cc and 125cc bikes, accounts for close to 60 percent of the overall two-wheeler market here. This is a huge volume where we are now present and very happy about it.

As regards bringing new models, we will have to maintain our position in scooters and the sport bike segment. We are not only focused on the commuter segment but also on the other categories.

The midsized (250cc-800cc) motorcycle category in India is growing very fast. What is your analysis of this segment?

This is a growing segment and we cannot ignore it. Yamaha has popular big bikes such as the R1, MT 01 and V-Max which are sold worldwide. Whenever our customers request us for these models, we import them as CBUs. Now more of our customers want to ride big bikes, which is why we introduced the MT-09. We are watching this segment very carefully and we will obviously roll out new models as and when we think is the right time. But it is very clear to us that we cannot ignore this segment.

How do you read the 125cc scooter market? Some existing customers may like to have more power in their existing 110cc scooters.

Yes, some customers may want more power from their scooters. But there is a large customer base which prefers a combination of reasonable power, fuel efficiency and cost price.

However, we see that the trend is changing. If our customers want more powerful scooters (125cc, 150cc) then we will consider them in the future. But right now we are concentrating more on the 110cc scooters.

You have priced the Saluto RX very competitively. Yamaha was also working on a low-cost bike project for India. What is the status of that project?

We have had a slight change in our strategy. We are not aiming to develop the cheapest bike because we want to also focus on the quality that we are known for. Further, we cannot ignore the image that Yamaha stands for in global markets. We want to make affordable bikes and Saluto RX is one example of that.

Are you eyeing Rs 45,000-Rs 55,000 as the right price bracket for your affordable volume-centric models in the future?

The Saluto RX is a very reasonable model. We are going to watch very carefully how this model performs in the market. Our future decisions will be based on the Saluto RX’s (market) performance.

Is the company looking to boost its exports from India this year?

Yes, this year (CY2016), we are targeting to export almost 200,000 units of motorcycles and scooters from India. 

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