Superbike Benelli re-enters India with Mahavir Group
The Italian superbike giant plans to launch at least 12 new variants in India by the end of 2019

Benelli, global leader in the superbike segment, is racing on every cylinder to re-establish its foothold in India, after severing its distribution partnership with Pune-based DSK Motowheels whose owner is in jail at present.

The Italian superbike giant is developing and designing a range of all new Benelli Imperiale bikes in the 400cc – 530 cc engine range specifically for the Indian market. The new bikes are ready and they are being tested and they will be brought soon to India for homologation.

Once debuted in India for the Indian market, they would also be targeted at the global market and exported from India.

Benelli, which had a successful run for three-and-half-years in India since 2015, has now tied up with Hyderabad-based Mahavir Group’s dealership subsidiary Adishwar Auto Ride India to market its popular range of bikes in the country.

Benelli has mapped out its strategic journey to fuel growth in the fiercely competitive but growing superbike market in the country. This market is at present dominated by the American brand Harley-Davidson and over 15 other brands from around the world.

Benelli, which retails its range of bikes in the country with a starting price of Rs 2 lakh from a 250 cc to 600 cc engine range, has at present a customer base of over 5,650 bike enthusiasts across India.

In the first phase, the brand will introduce facelifts of TNT 300, TNT 302R and TNT 600i superbikes in October this year to take advantage of the festive season which accounts about 15 per cent of the total annual sales.

“Our new assembly factory at Hyderabad will go on-stream from October and start assembling new TNT 300, TNT 302R and TNT 600i superbikes to be ready for sales during the festive seaon,” Vikas Jhabakh, managing director at Adishwar Auto Ride India told Financial Chronicle.

He said the new plant has an installed capacity to produce 7,000-10,000 bikes per year. 

In the second phase, Benelli will enter into a joint venture with the Mahavir Group, a leading automobile dealer for over 30 years, selling luxury and mass market two-wheelers and four-wheelers, including Mercedes-Benz, Skoda, Tata Motors, Benelli, Indian Motor-

cycles, for local production of its range of superbikes for the Indian market.

Last fiscal, the sales turnover at Mahavir Group jumped 17 per cent at Rs 700 crore.

“The joint venture will be announced over the next six-eight months when we will announce our investment plans,” Jhabakh said, adding that at present a task force comprising of Benelli engineers, marketers and professionals from Mahavir Group were preparing a blue print for the brand.

The second phase will involve setting up of a manufacturing plant in Telengana, Andra Pradesh or Maharashtra and these will be locally produced superbikes for the local as well as international markets.

“We will aggressively launch at least 12 new superbikes in the 250cc – 750 cc engine range by the end of 2019 for the Indian market,” Jhabakh said. 

While Royal Enfield sells on an average 70,000 bikes per month, Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Benelli and Triumph sell 15,000-20,000 bikes every month.

“I am most excited about the new Benelli Imperiale bikes in the 400cc – 550 cc engine being tested at the R&D centre which will be manufactured in India for the local market as well as for the global market,” Jhabakh revealed.

He said a task force comprising of three Benelli engineers and two from Mahavir Group were exploring all options when to introduce these bikes in the country as BS VI emission norms will kick off from April 1, 2020. 

Jhabakh said he also plans to introduce new models called Benelli Leoncino family bikes in the country. The Leoncino will be the first scrambler-styled motorcycle from the Italian brand. As part of its launch plans, Benelli will be introducing the Leoncino 250 also, apart from the standard and trial variants of the Leoncino 500 cc bike which is slated for the launch in the January-March 2019 period. The baby Leoncino made its global debut at the 2017 EICMA show in Milan, Italy.

“They will be of on-road and off-road types and later they will also be made available in the 250 cc engine capacity,” he explained.

The brand will also gearing to launch bikes from the TRK family bikes in the first quarter of next calendar year. Jhabakh said these bikes will also be fitted with 500 cc engine and available for on-road and off-road variants. The 250 cc engine capacity will also be launched later. “The 750 cc engine capacity TRK bike is at present under work at the R&D Centre,” he disclosed.

While Benelli is launching the all new TNT family bikes in the 502 cc engine and 750 cc engine capacity on October 19 at Bali, they will be introduced in the Indian market only in late 2019 or early 2020. 

Benelli entered the Indian market in partnership with the Pune-based DSK Motowheels, a part of the DSK Group, to sell its bikes in India in 2015. The partnership ended earlier this year, after Shirish Kulkarni, managing director of DSK Motowheels, was arrested in a financial fraud case related to DSK Group.

Jhabakh said about 15 existing Benelli dealers from across India from 10 states have come on board. “These 15 dealers have agreed to continue with us and we will be honouring warranties of all existing customers. No customer will suffer for spars for whatever model they own,” he said.

Jhabakh said he would add 5 more new dealerships by the end of 2019 and add 20 more touch points by 2020.

Michael Gonsalves