With just one product in its arsenal, Italian bike brand Benelli and its dealers faced the full impact of the lockdown. Plans to add more products to the line coupled with a dealership expansion went haywire amid the total shutdown.
But come 2021, the Chinese-owned two-wheeler brand intends to go full throttle on these plans. Starting January, Benelli intends to launch one product every month till August. These will complement the Imperiale 400, which it launched in August at Rs 1.99 lakh.
Owned by Qianjiang Group since 2005, Benelli is a maker of middle-weight category bikes in the engine range of 200cc-750cc. It competes with the likes of Royal Enfield, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, BMW Motorrad and KTM, to name a few. Benelli has classic, adventure and performance bikes in its portfolio.
Slew of launches
Speaking to Moneycontrol, Vikas Jhabakh, Managing Director, Benelli India, said: “We already launched the Imperiale in BS-6 and from next month onwards, almost every month, we will be launching one additional model in the BS-6 form. So, between January and August, the plan is to launch 7-8 different models.”
To accommodate the volume of new launches, Benelli will open more than one dealership every week till the end of March. The company intends to take its dealership count to 50 from 34 at present with most coming up in Tier-2 and Tier 3 locations.
“A lot of our dealerships were launched before the lockdown so they bore the brunt of the downturn. But we did not have even one instance of a dealership shutting down. We have been working very closely with them. We have 7-8 dealerships in various stages of completion, which will take our total to 42 in a month’s time,” Jhabakh added.
During FY20, which also marked the first full year of operation for Benelli in India, the company sold around 1,500 units through 6-7 dealerships. But despite losing sales for the first three months of this year due to the lockdown, Benelli sold more than double of what it sold last year, at 3,464 units till October.The target is to clock north of 7,000 units next financial year riding on the revamped product portfolio. The sales target, however, is a bit conservative given the expansion Benelli has carried out at its assembly plant in Hyderabad.
“We scaled up our capacity from 7,000 units to 30,000 units per annum. We have scope for further expansion. Our plan is to hit 40,000 units by 2021 provided we have a clear 12-15 months of business and our product introductions happen flawlessly,” said Jhabakh.
At 30,000 units a year, Benelli's India production capacity is dwarfed by Eicher Motor-owned Royal Enfield, which sells more than 50,000 units a month. Royal Enfield, however, has a full-fledged manufacturing unit.
Every model that Benelli plans to get to India will be assembled at the India plant unlike the import operations of some of its peers in the high-end segment.
“We feel that for the next couple of years we will have buyers from the high-end commuter segment (150cc) upgrading to 250cc and that’s where we have our products,” Jhabakh added.
According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers the 200cc-800cc bike segment grew 6 percent between September and November to 2.26 lakh units from the same period last year.