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Harley seeks alliance for lightweight bikes to grow India business

Chicago

HARLEY-DAVIDSON Inc is scouting for a partner with a manufacturing and distribution footprint to make lightweight motorcycles for use in India and other Asian markets, a top company executive said.

The Milwaukee-based company, known for its heavy touring motorcycles, said last week it would launch a 250cc to 500cc motorcycle in India to boost sales in the world's largest two-wheeler market as it grapples with an ageing customer base and falling sales in the United States.

Industry sales are projected to grow 25 per cent a year in Asia's third-largest economy in the 250cc to 500cc segment through 2021.

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"We realise that we as a company have been very focused on large heavyweight motorcycles and our expertise in the 250-500cc space needs to grow," said Marc McAllister, vice-president of product portfolio at Harley-Davidson. "We are looking for a strategic alliance that can help us grow through understanding the product, understanding the consumer, understanding the assembly."

That could mean Harley will not necessarily make the new motorcycles at its own facility in India, and may instead use a local partner, Mr McAllister said. He declined to discuss names or details of potential partners.

Helped by rising discretionary spending, motorcycles sales in India are experiencing double-digit percentage growth, compared with tepid recent consumer demand in the US.

Lured by the enticing growth prospects, British motorcycle maker Triumph and Germany's BMW have partnered with Indian companies Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor, respectively.

Harley expects the lightweight segment to act as a "bridge" to its brand, said Mr McAllister, giving it a chance to make deeper inroads into a market where over 20 million two-wheelers are sold annually. REUTERS