It’s finally official: Hero MotoCorp and Harley-Davidson will join hands in India. The partnership will see the former take over distribution of Harley bikes, parts and accessories at the 30-odd dealerships as well as retail them from its own sprawling Hero network. Going forward, Hero MotoCorp will also develop a range of premium motorcycles under the Harley-Davidson brand.
The iconic American motorcycle maker had, on September 24, made known that it was shutting down its plant operations in Bawal, Haryana, which would be accompanied by a downsizing of manpower. In effect, Harley was all set to call it a day in India except that the partnership with Hero marks a fresh second innings.
While no details are out yet, it is likely that Harley bikes will be imported from Thailand and sold here. The partners could also focus on midsize premium motorcycles (in the 300-600cc range) that may be out in the market over the next three years. After all, it is this segment of bikes that are being sought after by customers in emerging markets.
The key, of course, is to ensure that Hero MotoCorp's economies of scale will help develop a competitive cost structure for Harley-branded bikes. In turn, customers should be willing to accept such a product. To that extent, it will be interesting to see how the partnership evolves.
For now, Hero continues to be the market leader in two-wheelers while Harley has had little to show in contrast except for its robust HOG (Harley Owners Group) riding community which swears by the brand and its products. Its bike sales have been in constant decline mode for a while now and the Covid-19 scourge has only hastened the fall finally culminating in closure of the plant.
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