Bajaj and Kawasaki had developed various motorcycles during their alliance of almost two decades. However, Kawasaki never launched a product under its own brand name without sharing it with Bajaj.
The alliance will see the launch of, perhaps, the 250cc Ninja model of Kawasaki. The model will be made at Bajajs Chakan facility near Pune. This will help the company save on the high duties levied on imported bikes.
The 250cc, 30 bhp bike will be imported as completely knocked down kits from Kawasakis Thailand plant. This model will be launched before the end of the year.
In an email reply, Masanobu Kawaguchi, manager (sales and operation control, Asia division), said: We are still preparing to launch the Kawasaki model (most probably the 250cc model) and it will be this year. Details will be shared later.
The company will also look to launch other high-performance bikes, including the Sports Roadster, Ninja ZX-6R, Z1000 and Vulcan Cruiser. Marketing and distribution will be the sole responsibility of Bajaj Auto.
Kawasaki will provide the necessary training and parts back-up. Pricing details will be revealed at the time of launch. Industry sources say the bike will be priced above Rs 1 lakh.
These bikes will be sold at Bajaj's Probiking showrooms, a chain of retail stores set up for high-end bikes. They may be later made available at Bajaj's other dealerships.
In return, Bajaj will continue to get help in technology and design development from Kawasaki for its future products. Kawasaki will tap Bajaj's supplier base to source components to meet the requirement of its overseas operations.
In India, seven to eight of every 10 buyers of two-wheelers go for a low-powered commuter bike with an engine capacity of 100-125cc. But there has been robust growth in demand for bikes with an engine of more than 150cc capacity.
Most multi-national two-wheeler producers, including Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and KTM, believe the local market is on the cusp of progressing to higher-grade motorcycles with bigger engines. Analysts say although the volumes in the high-capacity engine segment (more than 150cc) are lower as compared to the entry-level segment, the former generates better margins.
Bajaj has been facing rough weather of late in the domestic market, despite a revival in the two-wheeler segment from January. Its competitors Hero Honda, Honda Motorcycles & Scooters, Yamaha and TVS Motors have all posted better sales. It hopes to cash in on the revival in demand later this year with new models of the Pulsar range and joint products from the Bajaj-KTM stable next year.