Monday, August 25, 2008

From RX100 to R15

The usefullness of the Yamahas RX 100 and other Japanese bikes of the early 1980s, were restricted within the four walls of the 100cc vacuum. As such youngsters who dreamt of roaring past 4-wheelers safely and in style, ended up marveling the antics of the Rajdoot 350, the Indian version of Yamahas RD 350.
The Rajdoot 350, which at a price of about Rs. 26,000/- and a poor mileage, failed to strike commercial success, was however awe-inspiring. As a matter of fact Rajdoot 350 had enjoyed a cult status in India with owners clubs and organized rides being held even after the production was stopped in 1990.
For nine years the thirst for speed remained unquenched which, of course allow the Indian households to enjoy an epoch of relative peace. That peace, however, was not destined to last long; taking cue from the infatuation of young India with the Rajdoot 350, Hero Honda Motors Ltd (HHML) had been working non-stop to throw in the bait.
During the early part of 1999 it so happen that every Indian household turned into hot spots of rebellion with unprecedented intensity. The demand: Hero Honda CBZ, the 150 cc bike, the budget: Rs. 55,000/-. Soon the CBZs dominance of Indian roads with a mileage of about 45 kmph, changed the status quo.
The people in Bajaj Motors had had sleepless nights over the absence of an appropriate make in their stable to take on the CBZ. Even erstwhile models that had propelled the Company to great heights like the Kawasaki Caliber, had lost popularity. The same disquiet dampened the chambers of TVS Motors. Even LML Motors, so far known for the scooters they had been selling, was harboring the hope of cornering a portion of the market for 150cc bikes. The proverbial Pandoras Box had burst open.
Bajaj and TVS could wait as late as 2000, whence the two bike makers launched their respective impoverished (by today’s standards) 150cc bikes viz Pulsar and Fiero respectively, priced slightly lower than the CBZ. TVS Motors soon followed this up with the Fiero F1 and then the Apache, which put the company in good stead since 2005.
Similarly LML Motors came up with its Graptor, which had a minimal presence in the roads, and Beamer, remembered best for the ad film of an empty road, a speed camera, the approaching sound of a motorcycle and the whizzing past of an invisible bike. Incidentally, no Beamer has so far been visible on the roads.
Apart from the prominent warlords in the 150cc category, major players have been diversifying their products of engine displacements below 150cc, which are the actual major earners of income. The HHMLs, for example, has supplemented their 100cc Splendour, the worlds largest selling motorcycle, with other models like the Dawn, the Passion, the Glamour and even in the 150cc category they offer two options to customers viz, Ambition and Achiever. Similarly Bajaj, TVS and LML Motors also have devised their respective strategies to woo customers. All this while Yamaha Motors had not asserted its presence as intensely. Naturally the silence was taken as a sign of weakness. There were, however, die-hard fans of Yamaha, who waited with half expectation and half disappointment.
Human wants are unlimited. In a diverse country like India, capacity to pay for something one fancy is also diverse. While the large mass of the income earners, who have mentally just overcome a pious allegiance towards the idea of a multi utility scooter-with-pouches-front-and-rear, were still contented with the performance of the 100 cc bikes, there were also deep pockets ready and able to pay more for a bike that has potential to fire their imagination. Pawan Munjal, the MD of HHML, knew exactly what he wanted when his company launched the 223cc engine motorcycle, the Karizma, with a price tag of Rs. 79,000/-.
Bajaj Motors, on its part, chose to take the upgrading path. Thus the hot seller Pulsar had to undergo multiple surgeries for enhancement of design, technology and engine displacement. And the model is now available in 150cc, 180cc, 200cc and 220cc variants. It’s the latest variant, the Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi (short for Digital Twin Spark- Fuel Injection) that threatens the territory of Karizma. At times one is tempted to believe that the Pulsar 220 has all the trappings of being a landmark bike what the CBZ did some years ago. But that’s an expectation. And the time of launch of the Pulsar 220 is unfortunate. An old warhorse had been in obscurity for too long.
The Yamaha Motors Company, in April 2008, unveiled the YZF R15, which, though equipped with an engine displacement of just 149.8cc, can dash off to a maximum speed of 145 Kph, way ahead of the 126 Kph mark achieved with the 223cc Karizma. Also, somethings about the R15 are different than the existing bikes; the bike’s engine has a cylinder made of die-cast aluminium-silicon alloy, which means advantages of lightweight and efficient heat dissipation and is equipped with forged pistons and six-speed gearbox. The R15 also gets disc brakes with tubeless tyres front and rear. At a maximum retail price of Rs. 97,425/- only, the fancy bike cannot be dismissed as a status symbol of the ultra-rich. Today a good number of Indian middle class families are habitual spenders of holidays at exotic locales and for them Rs. 1,00,000/- comes well within affordable range. And for sons of the wealthy, who worship bikes, a feeling of superiority will come only at prices ranging from Rs. 15,00,000/- to Rs 50,00,000/- the cost of imported Ducati bikes. For the rest of the bike lovers a masterpiece of Yamaha motors is on offer at less than Rs. 1,00,000/-.
Ladies and Gentlemen, here is introducing the R-One-Five !