Without digressing from its primary vision of catering to a very selective and niche audience in the two-wheeler market in India, Italy's Piaggio Vehicles, which retails products from its Vespa and Aprila brands, is aiming to go bolder with its product offerings.
Piaggio, with its seven Vespa models and the Aprilia SR 125 and Aprilia SR 150 moto-scooters, is only present in the 125-150cc scooter segment in India and accounted for a mere 1 percent of the total scooter volumes of 670,469 units sold in FY2019. Its total scooter sales were pegged at 77,775 units in the last fiscal.
While the meat of the market does lie in the entry-level 100-110cc space with Honda's Activa ruling the roost with 3,008,334 units in FY2019, Piaggio says that its philosophy is to never go below 125cc.
"It is not in our interest to compete in that segment, even if it is true that our overall market share is in that range. Honestly, we don't focus on market share for two-wheelers," said Diego Graffi, managing director and CEO of Piaggio Vehicles in an exclusive interaction with Autocar Professional.
"We want to explore specific segments that we think are very powerful in terms of growth potential and expand our presence there, create a leadership position and solidify our brand reputation," he added.
More pep, more power
Contrary to what any company would strategise to tap into the huge potential of the Indian two-wheeler market at the very entry point, Piaggio Vehicles is considering a specific application for the India market with a bigger displacement IC-engine scooter, to offer better performance, power and better handling.
Diego Graffi: "It (the new scooter) is going to be a big jump from what we currently see in the Indian market and will also preview what could come in the market."
"It is going to be a big jump from what we currently see in the Indian market and will also preview what could come in the market afterwards," Graffi told Autocar Professional.
The company has recognised the massive boom in the middle-weight (200-300cc) motorcycle segment in India and expects it to grow even faster in the next three to five years. "Even though that kind of displacement for scooter application may still be too early, but something between 150-200cc is very much possible to happen, not just from us but even from the competetion," revealed Graffi.
Customised to suit India
"We are developing the scooter right now and it is going to be a fully customised Indian development. Whatever we develop in India, in collaboration with the R&D centre located in Italy, is specifically meant for the Indian market," he said.
The new scooter will be launched under the Aprilia brand and Piaggio aims to introduce it over the next 18 months.
Looking closely at the company's share in the 'premium' scooter segment (125-150cc), Piaggio Vehicles holds a good 9-10 percent of the total scooter market in India and also has the highest brand recall in the segment.
Seeing this, Piaggio is also all set to introduce the Vespa Urban Cub and the Aprilia Storm 125 scooters in the Indian market very soon, and expand its portfolio. In fact, these two products have already reached dealerships across India.
New 150cc Aprilia motorcycle coming
With Aprilia being a globally renowned brand name among enthusiasts who relate to its design, power and aggressive performance, Piaggio hasn't been able to fully capitalise on the brand's potential here in the Indian market.
Apart from the two Aprilia scooters, while Piaggio does offer the Aprilia RSV4 as a completely CBU sports machine, it is now aiming note to do more. Graffi admitted that, "having a brand like Aprilia and not playing in the motorcycle market is unaffordable. It can help us expand our motorcycle portfolio as well as powertrain options, and thus, investing in Aprilia is a must."
At Auto Expo 2018, Aprilia displayed its RS 150 and Tuono 150 (above right), scaled-down versions of Aprilia's superbike and its naked twin. Both get the liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 150cc motor that develops 18hp at 10,000rpm, 14Nm of torque at 7,500rpm.
While the company showcased the Aprilia RS 150 and the Aprilia Tuono 150 at the Auto Expo 2018, Graffi mentioned that, "We need to bring the right product to India by seeing the right balance between performance, features and price."
"We are studying our competitors and have done some prototype testing recently. If everything goes in the right direction we have planned, we should be able to launch the motorcycle in India in the next 18 months too," Graffi said, revealing the company's aggressive new product strategy for the Indian market.
Main image: courtesy Piaggio FaceBook
Full interview with Diego Graffi in Autocar Professional's Two-Wheeler Special, May 1, 2019 issue