Although we haven’t seen an official press release confirming the news, multiple outlets (BBC, Bloomberg, Top Gear) say Harley-Davidson is pulling out of India’s motorcycle market. It’s closing its factory, and restructuring the rest of its in-country business plan.
This is a major change for Harley-Davidson, if true, as the Motor Company made a lot of noise about its plans for India in the early 2010s. Bike-mad India is the world’s largest motorcycle market. Even a tiny portion of that market would result in a big sales increase for a smaller vehicle manufacturer like Harley-Davidson.
The problem is India’s punitive tax measures, which jack up the prices of imported motorcycles. Harley-Davidson’s solution was simple: Build a factory in India, and actually make the machines there. That was the genesis of the Street lineup; the bikes sold in North America were built in a US factory, but global market models were made in India.
Now, reports say Harley-Davidson is closing its factory in India, laying off 70 employees and reportedly “exiting” the market. That sounds like it’s done selling bikes there, period. Or is it? The Economic Times suggest Harley-Davidson is about to make a deal with Indian manufacturer Hero. Maybe we’ll see a rebadged Hero model, bearing the H-D name?
Supposedly, Harley-Davidson sells about 3,000 bikes a year in India, with 33 dealerships in-country. That’s not very much, when you consider the Indian sub-continent has a billion inhabitants; while many of those people don’t have enough money to buy a Harley-Davidson, it’s certain there are plenty who can.
The move comes as Harley-Davidson brass restructure the company. New CEO Jochen Zeitz says he wants to pull out of less-profitable markets, and it would seem that includes India.