Exclusive: Hero MotoCorp readies premium 300cc motorcycle

by Amit Panday 22 Jan 2018

The XF3R, showcased at Auto Expo 2016, was a design concept based on a 250cc-300cc naked street motorcycle.

In an attempt to tap the growing demand for the entry-level midsized motorcycle segment in India, Hero MotoCorp, the country’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, is learnt to be readying its most ambitious offering yet – a premium single-cylinder, 300cc performance-oriented motorcycle.

At least four different sources aware of the development of one of Hero MotoCorp’s most tightly guarded and high-stake projects have confirmed the same to Autocar Professional on the condition of anonymity.

The upcoming 300cc motorcycle is understood to be derived from the XF3R concept, which was first unveiled at the 2016 Auto Expo in Greater Noida. The concept had provided a glimpse of Hero MotoCorp’s future direction in terms of high performance models.

This publication learns that the XF3R-based motorcycle is in pre-production state (near-ready) and is undergoing the various stages of validation. Although the company is expected to unveil the 300cc premium motorcycle soon (likely at the upcoming Auto Expo 2018 next month), sources point out that the XF3R might not hit the domestic market before Q1-2 FY2018-19.

Speaking to Autocar Professional, a source said, “Hero MotoCorp has been working on its 300cc motorcycle project that spawns out from the XF3R concept. While a lot of changes are made to the original concept based on the feedback its engineering team had gathered, it looks refreshingly good in its pre-production state. Expect an attractive package by the company as it prepares to shake up the growing premium motorcycle segment later this year.”

Sharing the company’s tentative go-to-market timeline for the premium 300cc XF3R, another source added, “Hero MotoCorp aims to roll it out in the domestic market not before Q1-Q2 FY2018-19.”

What the XF3R means for Hero MotoCorp . . .
The XF3R will finally mark Hero MotoCorp’s foray into the growing midsize motorcycle segment. Once it is commercially launched, it will become the only aspirational offering from the Hero MotoCorp stable, bigger than its popular Karizma models in terms of engine displacement, power output and overall performance.

The XF3R will be positioned as the natural upgrade option for many of its existing customers who have been riding executive commuter motorcycles.

Replying to Autocar India / Autocar Professional’s query (on the sidelines of the EICMA Show in Milan in November 2017) on Hero MotoCorp’s plan of retaining its large customer base with new premium and aspirational products, Pawan Munjal, CMD, Hero MotoCorp, had said, “I am sure when you will see me after the Auto Expo, having seen this (the XPulse) and some of the products at the Auto Expo and the directional posture that Hero MotoCorp has taken, you will change your view. We are putting a lot of focus on some of the areas such as the high growth segments. Some of our upcoming products must answer this exact question.”

In line with what the company's top boss had said, the company has, understandably, lined up all-new premium motorcycles – the 300cc XF3R and a 200cc commuter motorcycle, which is arguably slated for launch on January 30, 2018.

The company has refrained from replying to Autocar Professional's query on its upcoming 300cc premium motorcycle.  

The XF3R, along with the incoming 200cc commuter (and the recently revealed XPulse adventure motorcycle), will sit atop all other products in Hero’s portfolio, thereby adding premium valuation to it.

“Hero MotoCorp has very ambitious plans for the future. While it continues to be cautious, it is now steady at the backend in order to put the missing pieces together to become a global player. However, this is not going to be an easy task. Climbing the value chain was there on their roadmap for a long time. But with the latest developments moving on track, it appears that the company has been working hard to ensure its premium offerings – 200cc and 300cc – are good products and are well received in the market. The XF3R will be model to watch out for in the near-term. Hero MotoCorp’s new direction is clear,” underlined another source aware of these developments.

. . . and the two-wheeler market
Besides rivalling the KTM’s 250 and 390 Duke motorcycles, the Hero XF3R will potentially compete with all the motorcycles that are slated to spawn out of TVS-BMW’s single-cylinder, 313cc engine platform in the near future. This would include TVS Motor’s recently launched Apache RR 310 and the anticipated BMW Motorrad models – G 310 R and G 310 GS – which are scheduled for an India rollout later this year.

The rollout of Hero MotoCorp’s XF3R could prove to be a watershed in the fast maturing midsize motorcycle segment, thus making the entry-level 250cc-300cc a mainstream category in the vast Indian two-wheeler market.

The recent changes in the market size of 250cc-350cc motorcycles, barring Royal Enfield’s 346cc models, can explain the picture clearly. During the April-November period in 2016, it is estimated that the market size stood at close to 5,500 units (excluding all 346cc Royal Enfield models).

Autocar Professional estimates that the same grew to potentially more than 32,000 units for the same eight-month period in 2017, all thanks to the newly launched models – Yamaha FZ 25 and Fazer 25 and KTM’s 250 Duke.

Other motorcycle models that populate this category currently include Kawasaki’s twin-cylinder, Z250, Ninja 300 and Versys 300; Yamaha’s twin-cylinder YZF-R3; Mahindra’s 295cc Mojo; Honda’s CBR250R; UM India’s 280cc Commando range; DSK Benelli’s TNT 25, TNT 300 and 302R.

Stay tuned for more updates on the midsize motorcycle market in India.