Opinion: 2023 - The year that was

Opinion: 2023 - The year that was.

From a sheer new motorcycle launch perspective, there has never been a bigger year in the history of India’s two-wheeler industry. Think about it, every year you have two, maybe three really big ticket launches – those few motorcycles that create new segments and/or elevate the game. But last year, that number more than doubled, and that’s not counting the all-new Aprilia RS 457.

From Hero, we had an all-new Harley X440, a bike that caused such excitement it ended up being our most-watched motorcycle review in 2023 on YouTube with over 1.6 million views. That was soon followed by the Karizma XMR, another all-new motorcycle that brought back one of Hero’s most legendary names in India.  

Bajaj struck with not one, not two, but four all-new, blockbuster products, although none of them actually wore the Bajaj badge. The locally made Triumphs brought new levels of style and finish quality to the market, but it was their prices that really shook the industry.

Where the Bajaj-Triumphs played the value card, the Bajaj-KTMs went all out with tech and performance on the new 250 and 390 Duke. Both bikes have brand-new engines, chassis and style and both come with segment-leading features. Happily, both are also an absolute hoot to ride. 

Not to be left out, TVS also had a number of very innovative and out-of-the-box features on its new RTR 310, but few manufacturers have gotten enthusiasts as excited in recent times as RE with its new Himalayan 450. That bike packs the most potent adventure touring capabilities we’ve seen on an Indian-made motorcycle.

After a difficult few years, overall industry sales numbers were on the rise in 2023 as well – still not at the highs of FY19, but a positive year nonetheless. And how can you talk about sales numbers without getting into the EV story?

With much of the FAME-II subsidy red carpet pulled out from under its legs, the industry struggled for a few months in 2023, but returned to strong numbers sooner than expected. With the change in the subsidy as well as various investigations into certain manufacturers, some companies like Hero Electric and Okinawa have been hit really hard. Meanwhile, Ather, Bajaj and TVS continue to set new records almost every month, and Ola now commands 30 percent of the market.

Ola’s continued success has been bolstered by low pricing, which is quite hard to comprehend. It appears that the company continues with a cash-burn strategy that allows it to sell an electric scooter for just Rs 89,999. Then again, this doesn’t come as a surprise with Ola’s long-sought IPO approaching next year, and ramping up volumes will be the priority. Sadly, the company’s new gen-2 product continues to have issues and there have been recent reports on social media of more fire instances, with some of these posts and their associated pictures/videos being deleted soon after they went live.

Finally, perhaps the biggest disappointment of the year was Simple Energy, who, after much fanfare, managed to deliver 40 scooters as of December 21, 2023. But that has not stopped the company from launching its second product.

Nevertheless, 2023 marked a return to form and was a great year for motorcycle enthusiasts. Here’s hoping for more of the same this year.

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