Piaggio weaves strategy to boost two-wheeler business in India

by Amit Panday , 23 Nov 2015


The Pune store is the flagship Motoplex store for Piaggio in the Indian market

Piaggio Vehicles (India - PVPL), a 100 percent subsidiary of Piaggio & C.s.p.a. of Italy is working on a smart strategy to build its two-wheeler business in India from where it stands today. The Italian company, which has been operating in India since 1999, brought three two-wheeler brands from its global basket, as industry experts recall, not more than five years back.

It is known that the Piaggio Group, also Europe’s largest manufacturer of two-wheelers, makes scooters, mopeds and motorcycles ranging from 50cc to 1400cc marketed under the Piaggio, Vespa, Gilera, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Derbi and Scarabeo brands. The Group also operates in the three- and four-wheeler light transport space under the Ape, Porter and Quargo range of commercial vehicles.

Reports suggest that the company first brought Aprilia, the iconic brand associated with a rich motorcycle racing heritage, in India in early 2011. That was followed by the entry of the Vespa scooters (New Delhi Auto Expo 2012) and then the company brought in its Moto Guzzi brand to India in December 2012. It can be recalled that Autocar Professional was the first publication to break the news story on Piaggio planning to rope in its Moto Guzzi brand of motorcycles in India, in October 2012.

These celebrated international brands, relatively young in the Indian market, have also remained much less visible except for the Vespa. The visibility of the Aprilia and the Moto Guzzi brands remained largely restricted to their respective retail showrooms (count possibly less than 10 across India) through these years. On the contrary, the other big bike companies such as the leader, Harley-Davidson along with Triumph Motorcycles, Kawasaki, KTM and even the beginners such as Benelli have been aggressive in terms of rolling out new models and their network expansion.

Even Ducati returned to India after a brief halt in its operations and now has solid business plans going forward.

While this has also translated into a sizable growth in the sales of the big bike industry over years, the Piaggio brands failed to pick up much buyer attention in the market.

CLEAR STRATEGY

A number of industry experts believe that much of the brand awareness about the legacy of the two international motorcycle brands should be addressed by the Indian subsidiary, whose major business focus has been on the light commercial vehicle segment. Therefore, the new bike rollout plans, as understood, will fetch results only when the brand(s) are known, and are within the reach of its potential buyers.

Taking on this task from the ground is Stefano Pelle, who took charge of the operations at PVPL from October 2014 as the CEO.

On November 3, 2015, the company opened its first flagship retail store in Pune called as the Motoplex, wherein it has brought the three existing two wheeler brands in India – Vespa, Aprilia and Moto Guzzi –under one roof.

In an exclusive conversation with Autocar Professional on the sidelines of the grand opening of India’s first Motoplex, Pelle, managing director, PVPL said: “Almost everyone knows Vespa but how many would know that it belongs to the Piaggio Group? Similarly, true motorcycle enthusiasts around the world know about Aprilia and Moto Guzzi but would they know they these brands belong to the Piaggio group? Possibly not!”

“We plan to leverage the popularity of Vespa, which is one of its kind, along with the other technically fantastic motorcycle brands like Aprilia and Moto Guzzi to give our customers a feel of the Piaggio family. This is not just another dealership but is a store with a premium experience. Our potential customers can walk in not just to buy a premium scooter or a motorcycle or the merchandise here,
but they can also hang around, have coffee, speak with the officials, watch videos and carry the experience back with themselves,” he added.

newly-launched-piaggio-motoplex-store-pic-1

RETAIL THERAPY

According to Pelle, Piaggio Group plans to open 90 Motoplex stores worldwide by end-2015. That will also include at least three new Motoplex stores to be opened in India within the ongoing financial year. It is expected that the company may select Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai as the possible cities for setting up the three other premium retail stores.

“The last Motoplex was opened in New York, in Manhattan just two weeks ago. The PiaggioMotoplex stores are in Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Germany, UK and many other locations,” he said.

While all the Motoplex stores will follow a singular international design-and-feel format across the world, not all may fall in the same category. For example, according to the company official, while all the flagship Motoplex stores (company-owned, company-operated) will replicate each other, the dealer owned may differ in terms of size and the products on display.

“The Pune store is the flagship store for us, and if you visit any other flagship store around the world, you will get the same feeling. The other upcoming Motoplex stores in India may not necessarily look the same. We will have spare parts backup across all our stores,” Pelle said.

PENETRATION PLAN

Pelle, who said that potential buyers of Piaggio two-wheelers will see more action in 2016, confirmed that it made more sense to first create a basic network and supply chain infrastructure in place for its big bike brands before the company officially (re)introduces them in the country or even starts off with any national level marketing initiative(s).

It is known that PVPL was also mulling over creating some assembly capacity at the Baramati plant for its superbike brands.

“Yes, we are thinking about it. It is still on. It might happen soon. But we need to go step-wise, and building the network of Motoplex and making our brands visible is our top priority. We need to make sure that 2016 starts in a good way,” confirmed Pelle.

Interestingly, under the ‘strategy and areas of development’ section, Piaggio Group’s 2014 annual report clearly mentions that it will consolidate the scooter market with the expansion of the Vespa range and the introduction of new models in the premium segment including scooters and motorcycles. The report also terms the Indian two-wheeler market as the most important two-wheeler market in the world.

In September 2015, PVPL had rolled out two new 150cc Vespa models expanding the Vespa portfolio to five models.

Also read: Interview with Stefano Pelle, MD, Piaggio Vehicles, on the setting up the Motoplex store in Pune.