KTM seems to following Bajaj’s footsteps with multiple models on the same platform.
It’s that time of the month when I get to pin my thoughts on automobiles, no holds barred. If you haven’t realised it yet, it’s a monthly column and every week, one of us writes something opinionated. Somehow, when it comes to my turn, it’s always about KTM! Maybe because I am an owner, fan or maybe biased towards them (just recently I was reading comments on our KTM Duke 125 video review done exactly a year ago, someone wrote “even if this has TVS Luna’s engine, MotorBeam won’t have had a problem as long as the badge was KTM”, well sales figures show that our judgement wasn’t all that wrong about the Duke 125 but I loathe the idea of buying a 14.5 PS machine for Rs. 1.5 lakhs!
Let me vent out my disappointment with KTM for choosing China to manufacture the Duke 790, in spite of Bajaj owning 48% stake in KTM AG, where did all the talk of ‘Make In India’ go? (by the way, the next FK-R jacket will be made in India, currently no riding gear brand makes locally and sources from other Asian countries, mainly China). Anyways, let’s not digress and come to the topic at hand, is KTM doing a Bajaj? Too many products on the same platform, no distinct positioning of motorcycles and continuing sales of models which are way past their prime (the KTM Duke 200 seems to be doing a Bajaj Pulsar 220!).
However, what bothers me more is ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it’, if everyone follows that mantra, there will be no innovation in the world. Case in point being the KTM RC series, it’s been on sale for 6 years now but hasn’t got any concrete update yet, in spite of the Duke 390 getting a generation change more than 2 years ago! The 390 Adventure, well, the less I talk about the delay, the better it is.
The KTM lineup seems to becoming too crowded now with bikes with similar performance, they need to let go of the Duke 200 or at least update it to the new KTM street-fighter design. The Duke 390 seems fine where it is but they should replace the RC 200 with the RC 250, making the lineup of Duke and RCs with 7 bikes – 125s, 250s, 390s (Adventure too). But there will be an Adventure 250, maybe an Adventure 125 too while the Adventure 790 is more than welcome!
That said, this is just the start of the confusion because once you add Husqvarna to the mix, you realise there is another brand in the same KTM outlet which very few people know about, with the exact same engine and cycle parts but a different design and logo, why? Husqvarna’s two models – Vitpilen (almost pronounced WithPillion but certainly can’t accommodate one) and Svartpilen (both brand and models are difficult to pronounce) made their India debut with 250s at KBW aka KTM Bike Week, there will be 200s as well as 401s and while we are at it, why not throw in the 125s too!
Now there is definitely some method to this prospective cannibalisation madness, Bajaj believes it can compete with Royal Enfield with Husqvarna as the Dominar failed to even sniff into RE sales. But the British brand has changed, it no longer makes just slow, loud and heavy motorcycles, it also has two fab twin-cylinder bikes which have re-written the very game of Indian performance motorcycling, something which KTM did when it entered in 2012.
But for that, hasn’t Bajaj partnered up with Triumph, no? Seems more like Bajaj has swiped right on Triumph but the latter is yet to return the favour, there is no concrete detail on when and what from the JV between the Indo-British brands, I am tired waiting!
If all that wasn’t enough, after years of mocking scooters and saying they won’t enter the segment, Bajaj has finally and predictively, got back into scooters with an electric model, the Chetak too will sit in KTM showrooms. Right now, KTM showrooms seem to be very accommodating and maybe Triumph will also shift there eventually, seems to be the Airbnb of automobile showrooms right now!
I know I am certainly over-reacting with all the confusion going around, too many models on the same platform, too many bikes in the same showroom, news of more KTM and Husqvarna bikes on the anvil (501, Duke 890…) but no news of a RC 790 or the 1290 hitting out shores. Maybe Bajaj and KTM are trying too many things, or maybe, it’s yet another masterstroke from the Indo-Austrian partnership to make them the Volkswagen Group of 2-wheels!