Calcutta: After an extremely difficult year in which the industry was hit by the double whammy of major manufacturing hurdles and falling demand, the two-wheeler market is expected to shift into high gear in the second quarter of the year. next year, thanks to the restoration of supplies. and robust growth in demand.
While pent-up demand, particularly in the executive and performance bike segment, is expected to trigger initial sales growth, the re-emergence of college students as a customer segment coupled with rising fuel costs that have brought both Frugal to Wheelers, back in the calculation of customers considering entry-level cars, is expected to support growth over the next year.
But all of this will only happen if two-wheeler manufacturers keep their promise to restore the supply of 150cc and above class motorcycles that have been hit hard by the global chip shortage.
In September, only 65,500 units of bicycles and scooters were sold in Bengal, a decrease of 37% against 1.04 units lakh in September 2020. The industry recorded last September a growth of 12% compared to September 2019, when 93,000 units had been sold.
While the dramatic increase in sales last year despite the industry losing nearly three months to the shutdown was due to the pandemic and fear of using public transport, sales took a hit in the whole country during the second wave from April to June. Any hope of recovery was dashed by the chip crisis which crippled production.
Among the motorcycles that have all but disappeared from showrooms are Honda’s Unicorn, XBlade and Hornet 2.0; Bajaj Pulsar 150 and 180, and NS 200; TVS Apache 180 and 200; Yamaha FZ, FZX and R15. Only the Hero Xpulse 200 and Xtreme 160 R are commercially available.
The most affected, however, are companies that only play in the high end of the market: Royal Enfield, Jawa, Harley Davidson, Triumph, Indian Motorcycle, Ducati, Hayabusa and others.
“It is difficult to say if sales would have been as high as in 2020 given the multiple challenges we have faced this year. But it certainly would have been much better if the industry hadn’t been hit by a supply shortage. In Kolkata and the rest of Bengal, there is fair demand in the executive and performance and styling segments of two-wheelers, ”said Saharsh Damani, general manager of the Federation of Automobile Dealers (FADA).
Aside from the devastating second wave that hit towns as well as suburban towns, flooding in July-August and again in early September hampered semi-urban and rural sales. The loss of the standing crop has led many farmers to put aside plans to purchase a motorcycle. In many places, exhibition halls were submerged and remained closed for more than a fortnight.
Soaring gasoline prices did not help the cause, with many potential customers for entry-level or commuter bikes deciding to postpone the purchase. Many were cold-eyed at the idea of having to buy gasoline at over Rs 100 per liter.
“Usually 35-40% of annual two-wheeler sales take place during the holiday months of September through November. But this year, about 60% of this activity did not take place because of these factors, ”said Abhinav Agarwal, Honda dealer in Hooghly. Incidentally, 88% of two-wheeler sales in Bengal take place outside Calcutta in Tier II / III cities like Siliguri, Asansol and Burdwan, and in the rural belt, with motorcycles making up 65% of the two-wheeled pie.
In Calcutta, potential customers of executive and performance bikes who have not had such a negative financial impact due to Covid should make their purchase if supplies resume.
“With the two-wheeler manufacturers hinting at an upcoming improvement in the offering, we hope that sales will be generated by those who have been waiting for the bikes as well as by students confined to their homes for two years, with educational institutions being remained closed, ”said Divyanshu Mahansaria, a Honda dealership in Kolkata.
Arnab Sarkar, sales and service manager at a Yamaha dealer, is confident that if supplies are restored, more two-wheelers will be sold in December than in the last three months. “We have around 200 customers waiting for the bikes,” he said.
Royal Enfield dealers are among the most affected by the chip crisis as there are no motorcycles in the under 150cc category. In fact, with its portfolio comprising bikes between 350cc and 650cc, all of them are heavily reliant on chips. RE dealer Kushal Bajoria says that had it not been for the supply constraint, he could have sold three times the number of bikes he managed to sell during the festive months.
“We saw tremendous demand last year which resulted in huge sales. We should reach the 2019 level gradually. I expect to see green shoots in the second half of January, ”Bajoria said.
What is also expected to drive the growth of two-wheelers is the acceleration of the EV initiative with companies like Hero Electric, TVS iQube, Revolt, Okinawa, Ola, Ather and others launching battery-powered vehicles.