Taiwan’s Kymco set to enter India’s booming scooter market

by Rishaad Mody 30 Mar 2018


Kymco's premium offering, the AK550 scooter.

It's not only Indian OEMs who are bullish on the booming scooter market. Now, Taiwanese scooter brand Kymco (Kwang Yang Motor Co), which is one of the most popular scooter marques in South East Asia and the fourth largest scooter brand in Europe, has confirmed that it will enter the Indian market by 2021.

The brand, known for its varied range of two-wheeler and ATV products, says it plans to enter the lucrative scooter market in India with a local partner.

Kymco was formed in 1963 after splitting from Honda, for which it used to manufacture parts. The company, which built its first scooter in 1970, and started marketing the product in its name in 1992, is headquartered in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and produces around 570,000 vehicles per year. The company has production facilities in Jakarta, Petaling Jaya, Shanghai, Changsha and Chengdu.

In a recent interaction with Autocar India, Allen Ko, chairman, Kymco, said the company has been looking at India since over two decades. Ko says he visited India a number of times to meet local manufacturers for a first-hand understanding of the market. It is only now that Kymco feels the time is right for its entry. Ko is very clear that Kymco will not get involved in the numbers game.

Scouting for a local partner
Kymco’s top priority in its India journey is to find a local partner, despite the fact that Ko is aware that most JVs in India (two-wheeler segment) have had a poor record in the country. However, it is quite committed to the three-year timeline and says that it will enter India on its own if a suitable partnership is not formed.

While the company has not yet formalised a product strategy for India, it will introduce premium products along with offering a mix of EVs and maxi-scooters. This is in sync with its plan to have 10 new electric products under its ‘Ionex’ brand in the next three years, where it is targeting sales of 500,000 EVs in the same time period.

ionex

On March 23, Kymco debuted the Many electric scooter under its Ionex solution. The highlight of the green scooter is its removable lightweight batteries (5kg each) which are housed inside the floorboard itself, thereby providing the scooter the lowest centre of gravity possible and freeing up underseat storage space. 

There’s also provision to store three more batteries under the seat, which extends the Many's range to 200km. Range anxiety is addressed by a ‘core’ battery permanently stored inside the scooter, which means that even if all the batteries are under charge, you can still ride the scooter for a certain distance. The core battery gets automatically recharged once the removable batteries are replaced. The Ionex can be charged in a conventional manner by plugging it to a power source, or one can carry the removable batteries for it to be charged at home or in office.

Currently, Kymco’s product portfolio includes a number of premium 125cc offerings, a full-size maxi-scooter with fuel injected engines, called the X-town, and numerous options like the single-cylinder 300cc and 400cc Xcting models and even the new, twin-cylinder AK550 (pictured below). In the electric two-wheeler segment, it is expected to have new offerings on sale by 2021.

prod1-copy

While it recognises the value of having a dedicated product designed and developed for India, Kymco admits that this will take some time to have a specific India offering. Thus, the first products to go on sale will come from the existing product portfolio. It is too early to confirm if these first products will come as CBUs, will be locally assembled, or whether full local manufacturing is possible right from the start. However, Kymco says it certainly interested in making India as an international manufacturing base for the company.

International partnerships
In 2008, BMW selected Kymco to supply engines for the G450 X Enduro bike. Interestingly, the optional range extender for the BMW i3 is also supplied by the company. In 2013, Japanese two-wheeler maker Kawasaki began manufacturing the J300 scooter in partnership with Kymco, a product based on the Kymco Downtown 300i.

Also read: Top 10 Scooters – February 2018 | Honda Activa supreme, TVS Jupiter jives, Suzuki Access hits a high

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