Mar 1, 2007

Yamaha: The Road Ahead

Recently, ET carried a story that suggested that Yamaha was going to shut shop in India. If true, this is really sad. The company that created the highest point in Indian motorcycling, the RD350, is ready to pack it bags and go home. There was a minor peak with the RX100 as well, but its been steadily, even doggedly downhill from then on. Which is really terrible news.

However, if untrue, it could mean that Yamaha is finally ready to come back and really play the game. So far, Yamaha has been like the nerd on the sideline with great ideas but no idea how to execute them. They've been bimbling about on the sidelines, while Bajaj and Hero Honda have been carving unprecedented ground in the Indian market. I love the brand and what it stands for. Unfortunately, Yamaha India isn't even a shadow of the mighty presence it enjoys abroad. Which is just stupid.

But is it true, I'd say not. It doesn't make rational sense. We are the world's second largest motorcycle economy and we're heading towards being number one. Who in their right minds, no matter what the situation on the ground is, would pull out at a cusp like that? Especially, after having recently invested a fair amount of funds in the country.

No, I think Yamaha's getting ready for the big push. There are two rumours doing the rounds right now, both seem credible enough. The first is a 165cc bike that is allegedly already in the homologation process. As a proposition, it makes a lot of sense. Especially if Yamaha prices the bike just above the 150cc competition. But there is only one situation where a motorcycle like that would succeed. It would have to have blazing performance. I'm saying a machine that nears or beats the 220cc Pulsar. Seems impossible? It isn't. The first enemy of performance is weight. And all of our bikes can stand to lose lots. A 165cc motorcycle could easily be tuned for around 16 bhp. This will still run on regular, adulterated pump gas, will be a nicely stressed motor and will return 35 kpl. It addition to being light, it would have to handle like lightning. This part Yamaha knows lots about, so I'm not really worried. Product packaging wise, I'd specify a digital dash (including a clock and a stopwatch), monoshock, tubeless tyres, and light alloy wheels. I'd make it fully faired if it didn't compromise the weight criteria, else I'd leave it naked. Basically, it must be a small race bike for the street. It'd be nice, eh? If launched, I'd buy one in a flash. If not, it'd be a flash in the pan.

The other is a 250cc single. Once again, everything I've said about the 165 applies. It must be a no-prisoners style fast machine. Anything else, and it might as well ride itself over a cliff. The 250 has a special burden, though. It not only has to outperform the 220, it must do so with authority. In a drag, the Yamaha 250 will have to leave the 220 for dead. It must also at least come close to the venerable RD350 in performance terms. Ideally, it must kick the RDs arse. Then, it would be god.

Why the emphasis on performance?

Because Yamaha needs a leg to stand on in India. Right now, it's a toothless old wrestler with dull eyes. The most secure footing it will ever find is its international image – a young, exuberant, performance oriented brand.

Because Yamaha needs a big bang. It needs the product equivalent of a jump start. Another 100cc commuter isn't going to be it.

Because that's the need Yamaha can fulfill. Emotionally, we still associate the brand with performance bikes. No matter how many Cruxes they try to cram down our throats. And if anyone can make a sales success of a 35 kpl, 16 bhp, 165 cc bike, or for that matter a 25 kpl, 29 bhp, 250cc motorcycle. As long as its mindlessly performance oriented, I'm buying.


The BATFAN said...

No wonder my dealer told me I could not avail the Step Up warranty for 3 more years (total 5 years, 70000 KMs one of a kind in Indian motorcycles by Yamaha).

It really is sad. When I sit on the saddle and rev the throttle to 80KM/Hr with the smooth power delivery and neat corners, I used to think that my next bike is definitely going to be a Yamaha only. How I have beaten Discovers on straight stretches leaves me in awe of whether the Gladiator is really a class act or whether Bajaj still needs to work with motorcycles. I think its a mix of both. Gladiator has been a bit of a success for Yamaha I thought and I am really shocked to read this. However I must say a well kept Yamaha down two years can still be a lot more fun than a well kept Hero Honda or Bajaj.

Anonymous said...

Yamaha needs a bike in each segment
125 cc
150 - 180 cc
250 cc
This is for am Janta

For hard core dudes
400 - 650 cc
800 - 1000 cc

We need good prices BUT anywhere from the 250 to 1000cc
Yamaha needs to "get it " for sure.