Thursday, 2 January 2014

Suzuki Inazuma To Cost Well Over Rs. 3 lakh

Honda brought the mini VFR and christened it as the CBR 250R. The speedster is far from cheap at Rs 2.2 lakh on-road, but it has seen a large following. Rumours are now afloat that fellow Japanese two-wheeler giant Suzuki is planning to launch the baby B King i.e. the Suzuki GW 250 Inazuma at around Rs 3.20 lakh give or take a few thousand Rupees. The Inazuma has already been seen at multiple dealerships and it is believed that pre-bookings are underway. Suzuki will officially launch the quarter litre streetster towards the end of January.

The Inazuma GW 250 is powered by a 250cc fuel injected parallel twin than pumps out a peak power of 26 bhp and 24.4 Nm of torque, all this being mated to a 6-speed gearbox. If Suzuki does go ahead and price the Inazuma at Rs 3.20 lakh (nearly Rs 3.5 lakh on-road) it will be interesting to see if they can rake in the numbers. The Inazuma is a parallel twin as opposed to the single that powers the CBR 250R & it invites more duties as it is coming in through the CKD route making it more expensive. But it is evident that the performance figures, at least on paper aren’t exactly worlds apart (The Honda CBR 250R stands at 22.9 NM of torque & 25 BHP). Being a twin cylinder will translate to better torque delivery at lower speeds, but it is rather difficult to imagine that factor driving enough customers to Suzuki dealerships. For reference, Kawasaki’s Ninja 300 is also a parallel twin & manages 27nm of torque and 38.5 BHP! Not to mention the fact that the GW 250 has not received any medals for its looks. When early rumours floated on social media, the most common reaction was that the Inazuma looked too dated for it to work in India.

-Image via

The Ninja 300 is an entry level sport bikers dream and chances are that if a person had to spend the additional 50k, he’d probably save up for a bit longer and buy the Kawasaki (Apart from the performance figures, Indians do generally prefer fully faired motorcycles). What’s more is that the KTM Duke 390 has Indian roads slippery with bikers drooling over its performance to price ratio. Even Honda revealed the CBR 300R China International Motorcycle Trade Exhibition and this time it literally is a baby blade with enthusiasts lauding its reveal. Performance stats are at 27 NM of torque and a peak power of around 30 BHP. There hasn't been any confirmation on when the successor CBR will arrive here, but since it still will be a single cylinder it is likely to fall below the Rs 3 lakh price bracket. The GW 250 will have to either market itself better or Suzuki will have to come out with a better package if the Inazuma has any hope of being successful.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Triumph Begins Bookings

In the week leading up to Triumph Motorcycles India’s launch several shots of their first dealership opening in Bangalore emerged. Even though neither one of the showrooms have cut the red ribbon, Triumph has officially opened for bookings. The British bike legend was launched on November 28th this year amid much anticipation. Triumph had announced that they would commence bookings by the 2nd week of December and have gone through albeit after a short delay.

Throwback to that launch Thursday in November & you would remember Triumph’s plan to have nine dealerships in India within the first quarter of 2014. Currently the first two dealerships are down south while the bookings in Delhi & Mumbai are expected to be operational by the end of January. However, for the customers who are fortunate enough to have booked their motorcycles already deliveries will be around the same time as when bookings commence for other cities. Triumphs plant at Manesar, Haryana will be producing the models that are expected to invite higher demand. The Triumph Bonneville, Bonneville T100, Daytona 675R, Thruxton, Street Triple & Speed Triple will all be coming in through the CKD route and will be assembled here. The Tiger Explorer, Rocket III, Tiger 800XC and Thunderbird storm will all be complete imports and therefore invite higher duties.  Triumph’s price tags begin at Rs 5.7 lakh for the classic Bonneville & go all the way up to Rs 20 lakh for the flagship Rocket III.

Here is the complete price list: (Prices may vary depending on your location)

1. Bonneville-...................................5.70 lakh
2. Bonneville t100-...........................6.60 lakh
3. Thruxton-....................................6.70 lakh
4. Street triple-................................7.50 lakh
5. Speed triple-................................10.4 lakh
6. Thunderbird storm-.......................13 lakh
7. Rocket III -...................................20 lakh
8. Tiger 800XC-................................12 lakh
9. Tiger explorer-.............................17.9 lakh
10. Daytona 675r-.............................11.4 lakh

While Triumph is beginning its exploration of the Indian market, the all American legend Harley-Davidson had readied the Street 500 and Street 750. Harley-Davidson’s “By-India-For-India” Street siblings are slated for a launch any day now and may well pose a serious threat to Triumph. Most people had their excitement let down by Triumph’s heavy pricing & with the Street 500 & 750 expected to arrive below the 5 lakh price bracket the British legend may struggle to compete with the yanks.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Honda Two-Wheelers Starts sales in Bangladesh

Honda may have split up with one of the world’s highest selling two wheeler makers, Hero. But that seems to have only bolstered their plans to expand their reach into countries around our sub-continent. Bangladesh Honda Pvt ltd (BHPL), started locally producing the Honda CD 80 (A 4-speed 79cc utility motorcycle) in October 2012. Since then they have started expanding their sales network in Bangladesh. Although at the moment BHPL has only opened two dealerships, they plan to root themselves in Bangladesh and get established as a major player.

One dealership has been opened in Tangail while the other will operate in Jamalpur. Honda will be focusing entirely on commuter motorcycles and it is unlikely that Bangladesh will see performance models like the CBR 250r just yet. The current model range count stands at six including the locally produced CD80 and the Dream Neo that will be imported from Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd (HMSI). The joint venture with Bangladesh Steel and Engineering Corporation (BSEC) was processed towards the end of 2012 with the intention of providing affordable, low-maintenance & high efficiency motorcycles to the masses. The “start small, grow big” approach that Honda is taking means that the service back-up will grow simultaneously.

Bangladesh is a small nation with a population of just 150 million and the industry-wide two-wheeler sales figures stand at a mere 200,000 units in 2012. The Japanese automotive giant is hoping to reinforce its prowess in the region by not only catering to the existing demand, but by creating more of it.  The Bangladeshi market requirement is a mirror image of what the Indian market was less than a decade ago.

Honda’s existing experience in Pakistan and India means that they are going in prepared & this could prove to yet another fruitful endeavour. Hero Motorcorp on the other hand is already selling its motorcycles via the CKD route. The Indian two wheeler giant also revealed its plans to set up a production line in Bangladesh as well as Columbia. Both motorcycle manufacturers are in the phase of laying down their groundwork in Bangladesh, what remains to be seen is how well the buyers respond to this

Friday, 27 December 2013

Maruti Suzuki may start production in Sri Lanka

India’s king of reliability is considering an expansion in its operations by adding facilities in our neighbour down south. Maruti Suzuki has started talks and research to ascertain the viability of setting up a production line in Sri Lanka. The growing demand from African, Middle-Eastern and even South-East Asian markets has seen Maruti setting up larger sales networks.

Currently MSIL has the reputation of being the best particularly in terms of service back-up, reliability, affordable cars and spare parts alike. Sri Lanka has a similar customer base to that of India and Maruti could gain in terms of both sales in the island nation & if all goes to plan, could also turn it into a major export hub.  Discussions are still underway to analyse taxation structures, labour laws and manpower recruitment. Maruti’s expansion is known to not be limited to just urban areas. In the last year their reach has gone from 44000 to 60000 villages and it doesn’t end there. Plans are in full swing to almost double that reach in Q1 2014. Rural sales grew by 18% from the 2nd  quarter of  2013. (With even Lamborghini launching their tractors it’s no wonder that Maruti is tapping this demand)

Maruti Suzuki’s plans to introduce more models could see India & Sri Lanka turning into the primary hubs in south-east Asia. A new plant that is taking shape in Gujarat may be operational by early 2015 along with an R&D centre in Rohtak, Haryana. The existing plant in Manesar, Haryana has already become a primary supplier of models like the Swift to several international markets. Apart from this the auto-maker will also start focusing entirely on affordable commuter vehicles. In what could be called the “My first was a Maruti” philosophy, the company will be focusing on its brand image’s strength and veering away from high end models.

After the Kizashi failed to see a strong reaction (both in India and overseas) the car giant will be producing more cars for the masses. At the moment MSIL offers around 16 different models for sale in India, from which the best-sellers remain well under the Rs 10 lakh price bracket.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Women and Cars: Are you a front or rear lover?

This is normally a discussion reserved for those who genuinely indulge in the intricacies of performance, drive quality and feel. Front wheel drive or rear wheel drive is rarely a deal breaker for most motorists. However, in discussions like petrol VS diesel, automatic VS manual, turbo VS naturally aspirated; there is always one question that is common. Which one is better? So, in this read we have an overview of the two and try to ascertain which drive wheel makes for a better deal.

One trend that has taken over is the shift from rear wheel drive to front. In 2010 BMW announced that it would join this bandwagon and pedal-heads were on the floor wailing to an extent that would make toddlers begging for lollipops at a grocery store judge them. The advantages of front-wheel drive are mainly practical. With the drive train, engine and steering all packaged together under the hood, it's easier to give more space to passengers or cargo inside. They also enable engineers to make a car that’s lighter, more fuel efficient and in some cases, lower in emissions.

The Achilles heel of the front wheel machine is its steering. It is the reason why high-BHP cars are better off being powered from the back. In RWD vehicles the axles play zone defense. The front deals with the steering while the rear handles the thrust, neither getting in the way of the other in normal driving scenarios. In FWD cars under-steer or “torque-steer” is a nuance that makes many an eye twitch.

Imagine yourself going for a run. When you come up at a curve, your entire body moves into the motion to
get you in the direction you want. Try the same thing just moving from the waist down and the smart money says you’re going to trip over and fall with the only airbag being your body fat, but I digress.
In the same sense, your legs are you drive wheels. Leave the job of steering on them alone and your drive faces resistance, eventually resulting in only one winning if not done with caution. Enter a curve too fast and your power clashes with your steering, making the car move almost straight ahead. This is where the enthusiasts puff their chests and go “I told you so.”

But don’t go flipping your front axle the bird just yet. Remember, many car makers are switching over to FWD for a reason. With the car’s driving capabilities being managed under the hood, it leaves a lot more room in the cabin for passengers and a nicety or two. Occupants in the back don’t have to deal with an enormous floor hump either. Several five seaters out there are actually four-seaters with wiggle room for a fifth because of the trans-box bump. The movement of the entire unit under the bonnet also reduces transmission loss from the engine to the output differential. The main reason why the F-word of the drive wheel world is more desirable to manufacturers is that it makes the car more useful for its buyer. Let’s face it most cars are bought for their efficiency, space and features on tap. Motoring is a passion to many, but in the real world they need practicality. Pulling off a slalom or drifting is hard to do when 99% of your commute in spent emulating cattle on your way to work. The best wheel spin you can manage is giving it too much gas on left-over road-work gravel.

Rear wheel drive vehicles have a more desirable driving experience. Some say it’s a more connected type of drive. RWD’s especially handle better because drive and direction don’t get in each other’s way and when they do, they produce the awesome act of drifting..or the stupid act of spinning out. *Oversteer>Understeer*. Since these cars have a more reliable steering response & enable back end control, enthusiasts always give it the thumbs up. While over-steer has an entire sport around it, under-steer is no fun and only hampers drive-ability.

Concluding this article of a definitive note is not possible. It’s the same affair as comparing Beyonce with Jennifer Love Hewitt. The features, mannerisms and behaviour you prefer are just that, YOUR preference. If you like your butts big who am I to judge you?

Front wheel drive cars make for a smarter pick because they are lighter, more spacious, more efficient and more cost effective to make. Rear wheel drive is the for the old school motorist who doesn’t see the difference between light beer and lemon juice. The cars are heavier, face  more transmission loss, eat into passenger space and are a more expensive affair, but are genuinely more fun to drive. And you can’t just turn a blind eye to that.