Pune-based Bajaj Auto restyled its only cruiser bike, Avenger, and launched three variants of the model on Tuesday, raising the price marginally from Rs 81,300 to Rs 84,000 (ex-showroom, Delhi). It also launched a baby version of the Avenger priced at Rs 75,000, reaching out to a larger segment of the bike-buying public.
The new styles and the launch come in the wake of a perceived shift in consumer behaviour. Many believe that cruise biking, largely a US-led phenomenon (where bikers ride for leisure rather than utilitarian purposes) has caught on in India, primarily due to aggressive marketing by the world’s largest cruiser bike manufacturer Harley-Davidson. The brand which enjoys cult status all over the world recently started the Harley Owners Group in India and according to the Society of Indian Automobiles Manufacturers, last year recorded sales growth of 48 per cent selling nearly 1,900 units. Eicher Motors-owned Royal Enfield is the only other company in India with cruiser bikes. It updated its cruiser Thunderbird last year and saw sales go up by 33 per cent to 38,564 units. While the Thunderbird costs Rs 1.38 lakh, Harley-Davidson starts at Rs 4.52 lakh, way more than the Avenger.
“We talked to lot of customers before starting work on the Avenger. We found out that there is significantly huge potential to grow the brand. The genuine cruiser segment has steadily grown over the years with Avenger being the torch bearer,” Eric Vas, president — motorcycle business, Bajaj Auto said. Response for the old Avenger has been steadily rising, say company officials, which gave them the confidence to come out with three variants of the bike — Cruise 220, Street 220 and Street 150. The company says that from around 3,500-4,000 units, it aims to ramp up to 20,000 units by January serving only the domestic market.
Bajaj has done away with the old styling and given the new model a striking new look. The Cruise 220 now sports a new high grip, an M-shaped handlebar like most traditional cruisers. The all chrome bike also gets a restyled instrument cluster, wide, comfortable seats and body graphics.
The Avenger Street 220 is the city cousin of the Cruise. With its matte black and brushed silver finish, alloy wheels, lower and flatter handlebar it is meant to look sporty and youthful. Its 220cc engine is borrowed from the Pulsar.
The surprise was the launch of a baby Avenger powered by a 150cc engine. This is the first time that Bajaj has lowered the entry point for the Avenger model – until now it started with a 175cc engine and went up to 220cc. The Street 150 mimics elder sibling Street 220 in looks and style. However, unlike the 220cc its engine is not the same as that of Pulsar. Eric Vas said, “We found out that there is a certain mental block in the consumer’s mind. Many of them choose not to go for bikes with more than 150cc engines. That is why we developed the 150cc Avenger and Pulsar AS.
Although the new Avenger has other cruiser bikes (Harley, Royal Enfield) for company in its category, its price and engine capacities place it in a segment entirely of its own. It does not face much of a threat from other two-wheeler makers either as they continue to focus on regular commuters (100-125cc) or high performance bikes (150cc and above). Bajaj was focusing on these segments too, thus far, putting its might behind Discover, CT 100 and Pulsar.
Would Bajaj look at adding higher capacity engines to the Avenger (Royal Enfield Thunderbird has 350cc and 500cc engines)? Vas said, “As a company we have the technology. But there is nothing concrete right now.”
Bajaj first launched the cruiser in 2001, it was called the Eliminator because it was under license from Kawasaki of Japan. It was rebadged to Avenger four years later and given the same 180cc engine as the Pulsar. It was given two upgrades — 200cc and finally 220cc. Back then the Avenger did not have much competition except for the much smaller 125cc engine powered Yamaha Enticer that has since been phased out. With the new Avengers, Bajaj’s seventh launch of 2015 and fifth this financial year, the company hopes it can keep the market all to itself yet again.