Triumph has passed control of its Indian market sales and distribution operation to its partner Bajaj as the launch of the much-anticipated middleweight retro range draws near.
The tale of Triumphs connection to India’s Bajaj has been a long one. First announced back in 2017 it came in the wake of the British company’s ill-fated attempt to develop its own India-based operation, which was originally planned to mass-manufacture a range of 250cc single-cylinder models, including a Daytona 250 and a Street Single. That idea came to nought: despite the bikes being well developed and even officially announced a decade ago in 2013, Triumph’s efforts to build a factory in India to manufacturer them faced endless delays and the whole project was called off not long after it had been confirmed.
The Bajaj tie-in announced in 2017 included a mission statement that a range of mid-sized machines would be co-developed between the two companies, to be sold under the Triumph name but manufactured in India by Bajaj. The first of those new bikes is expected to be revealed later this year.
Although it was initially unclear what sort of bikes the Triumph/Bajaj partnership would produce, we now know that the first range will be made up of single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, retro-styled models. Essentially shrunken versions of the Bonneville line-up, the bikes are to be made around a new DOHC single that, like the Bonnie, has pronounced fins on its cylinder for a retro appearance despite being water-cooled. Eventually, the Indian-made range is planned to range from around 250cc to 750cc.
The bikes will be targeting successful Indian rivals like Royal Enfield, but also offered globally as a new entry point to the Triumph range.
At the start of this month, Triumph ceded control of its Indian dealer network and distribution to Bajaj as part of the project, signalling another level to the strategic partnership between the companies. While there are currently only 15 Triumph dealers in India, that number is likely to increase substantially once the more affordable models are on-stream. For comparison, Bajaj has around 6000 dealers in the country for its own bikes and plans to introduce Triumph dealers in 120 cities over the next two years.
The arrangement between Triumph and Bajaj is not unlike the deal between Harley-Davidson and Indian company Hero MotoCorp, which allows Hero to develop and manufacturer small-capacity, Harley-branded bikes for the Indian market, but unlike that arrangement the resulting Bajaj-Triumph models are expected to be made available in other markets as well.
In statements announcing the latest tie-in, Rakesh Sharma, Executive Director of Bajaj, said: “We are very excited that the time to bring the results of the joint work of Triumph & Bajaj Auto teams is drawing closer. We welcome the Triumph dealerships into the Bajaj Auto family and offer them an opportunity to further build their business as the portfolio expands. We will also leverage our formidable distribution network to rapidly expand the exclusive Triumph stores in India in preparation for the soon-to-be-launched, exciting new motorcycles.” And Paul Stroud, Triumph’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: “The Triumph dealer network has been great business partners for Triumph, they have achieved many great results with Triumph Motorcycles here in India and have served our 9,000+ customers incredibly well since we entered the market back in 2014.”
Bajaj already has connections with other bike firms, not least KTM. The Indian company is a substantial shareholder in KTM’s parent company and manufacturers the Austrian brand’s ‘390’ single-cylinder models on its behalf. However, the tightening of ties between Triumph and Bajaj is likely to fuel speculation about the two companies’ future together. There is already industry chatter that Bajaj is interested in buying Triumph in the future, although there’s currently no indication that the British brand is for sale.
Bajaj’s interest in famous, old-name bike brands has already led to the purchase of more than one famous name. In 2020 the company bought rights to the Excelsior Henderson brand, and in 2022 it added an array of British names to its trademark portfolio including Vincent, HRD and Egli-Vincent. With BSA now up and running under Indian ownership – it’s part of Mahindra – and Royal Enfield going from strength to strength under the stewardship of Eicher Motors, it’s easy to see why Triumph would attract Bajaj.