News Feature

Keeping it simple, fun and affordable: Royal Enfield is firing on all cylinders



December 7, 2017 | Rahoul Ghose

Royal Enfield North America IMS NY images | dec 2017 | rahoul ghose

A little over a year ago we had the privilege of sitting down with Royal Enfield North America (RENA) president Rod Copes to talk about the future of the company, new products on the horizon, plans for the US/Canadian markets and the general philosophy of the company. (NYC Motorcyclist, Oct. 2016)

Fast forward to IMS New York 2017, at the Royal Enfield NA booth, and we’re impressed with how well the company has done in the past 14 months in not only keeping to their new model release promises and their dealership expansion plans, but more importantly sticking to their philosophy of keeping it simple, fun and affordable.

Case in point, Royal Enfield announced three new models at EICMA in Milan last month, all three of which were on display at the Javits Center in New York this past weekend.

The Himalayan – a dual sport workhorse combining Royal Enfield’s historic riding experience in the Himalayas with an all new 411cc single-cylinder engine and terrain-tested suspension – hits the market in 2018 at an amazing $4,499 after public enthusiasm for the bike convinced higher ups that the made-for-India model also belonged stateside. It features fuel injection, an overhead cam and a counterbalancer to calm vibration.

Two new twins -- the Interceptor and Continental GT 650 (replacing the 535 single) – will also appear mid-2018 at just under 7K, the first based on a ‘60s model made almost exclusively for the Los Angeles market to appeal to the beach set, and the latter directed at Brit bike enthusiasts with its café racer good looks and ergonomics. Both were fashioned out of the company's design center in Leicestershire, UK under the direction of Mark Wells, head of industrial design and product strategy. Both feature a brand new twin, fuel-injected engine and a counterbalancer for a smoother ride.

royal enfield north america president rod copes speaks to media at ims ny, dec. 1 at the javits center | rahoul ghose
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  We’re never going to go higher than that seven to eight thousand price range. We’re never going to leave the middleweight market. We’re going to stay true to our heritage.   

-- Breeann Poland, Royal Enfield North America, Senior Marketing Manager
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It’s been a very exciting year for the company, says RENA’s Senior Marketing Manager Breeann Poland.

On the dealer side, the company has more than tripled its presence in North America (the US including Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico), with new shops being announced almost weekly, Poland says. (more than 70 to date, up from 20 last year). Look for a brace of new local additions to the roster soon.

“We have a full product portfolio for the next seven years," she adds "So, you are going to see constant products pumped out from the company. We’re never going to go higher than that seven to eight thousand price range. We’re never going to leave the middleweight market. We’re going to stay true to our heritage. So, you’ll see more throwbacks with upgraded motor technology … but nothing that will throw consumers off."

Yes, there are more announcements coming down the proverbial exhaust pipe, at least two more in the coming months, including a yet-to-be announced special edition model. But currently for 2018 RENA will have: three variations on the Classic 500 single (classic, military and chrome), the Bullet 500, the Himalayan, the Interceptor 650 and both the current GT and new 650 GT Continental, while stock of the original 535cc single variation remains available.

The Classic accounts for about 61 per cent of overall sales in North America, but the company is hoping the Himalayan -- with its universal appeal, low riding height and great price point -- will carry revenue to the next sales plateau.

the new himalayan off-road bike at the javits center | rahoul ghose
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  We have a full product portfolio for the next seven years ... so, you are going to see constant products pumped out from the company ... you’ll see more throwbacks with upgraded motor technology … but nothing that will throw consumers off.   

-- Breeann Poland, Royal Enfield North America, Senior Marketing Manager
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Dedicated to the 250 to 750cc range, Poland says RENA is paying special attention to urban city markets such as New York City and Los Angeles, locations where they hope to increase the company's presence and ridership. The new twin models are also aimed at keeping existing Royal Enfield owners in the fold, riders who may have started their moto experience on RE's single-cylinder popular offerings -- the Bullet and Classic 500s -- who want to trade up to a bike with more power and better handling.

"We want to keep the lifelong Royal Enfield customer and the twins are bikes they can move up to," Poland says.

That customer base is in fact being tapped for its opinion on what colors the new 650 twins will be available in and what accessories will be available for the bikes.

"As the market is quite small here (relative to the world and India in particular, where the bikes are manufactured) we really have to choose what to bring in," Poland says, adding even the stunning real chrome tank that is an option for both the Interceptor and GT might not make it to the US.

Existing and potential customers can make their voices heard through surveys at bike shows, such as IMS, and dealerships. The same can be said for a line of accessories being developed for the entire lineup.

“Now that we’re becoming a global brand we understand we do have to offer aftermarket parts and accessories because people want to customize their motorcycles,” Poland says. "So, why not provide that from an OEM standpoint so people don’t have to outsource it on their own. In India it is more about getting to and from work or taking your family places. Whereas in the US and Europe, and maybe even in South America in some places, it’s a hobby, it’s a passion ... we'd like to build up on that passion to change things around to make (the bike) more you."

While Poland couldn't comment on what the full line of accessories would include, she did say new mirrors and a two-up seat are in the works.

"The bikes aren’t even in production yet, so there's lots of time to research what riders want."

the new interceptor 650 with its 1962 inspiration at the javits center | rahoul ghose
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  Now that we’re becoming a global brand we understand we do have to offer aftermarket parts and accessories because people want to customize their motorcycles ... we'd like to build up on that passion to change things around to make (the bike) more you.   

-- Breeann Poland, Royal Enfield North America, Senior Marketing Manager
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Poland adds RENA hopes to take a page out of the global company's cultural history by bringing longstanding branding events from India -- such as Rider Mania -- to the US. Over the last nine months RENA has attended more than 40 moto events in America. Reunion USA, a smaller version of Rider Mania, is tentatively scheduled for March 2018 in Texas.

"It's our way of giving back to our riders .. it's very interactive, all customer-led activities … slow races, carry your bike, take the bike apart and put it back together … a Himalayan obstacle course. The consumers are the ones who do it … they’re not watching celebrities or superstars do it."

RENA will also stage individual media rollout events in Texas for the Himalayan and new twins in Spring 2018.

Why Texas you ask? The Lone Star state currently boasts the most registered US-based Royal Enfield owners and supports eight dealers. By comparison, California will have six dealers by year's end -- including Brea, San Diego, Oakland and Sacramento, and New York will have three (Depew, Albany and a soon-to-be announced NYC location), though NYC is also serviced by a pair of shops in New Jersey as well as the country's top selling dealer in Connecticut.

It also helps that Texas is where RE bikes first make US landfall the after leaving India's three manufacturing plants. Dallas is the company's US distribution center where all bikes go through inspection before being sent to dealers around the country. However, the company does have plans for two more flagship dealers in California. Stay tuned.

Ultimately, the appeal of Royal Enfield's bikes lies in their classic looks, their simplicity, their affordability and their easy learning curve, a philosophy global CEO & MD Siddhartha Lal has encouraged in the company's modern era.

"You don't have to press 1400 buttons to turn it on," Poland says, adding the bikes have always been, and will continue to be, easy to service, maintain and mod for those with a DIY bent.

"You don’t need to be some master technician to work on these bikes."

Demographically, Royal Enfield riders span the whole spectrum of ages evenly, with the male/female split being about 60/40.

"I think the reason women are attracted to these motorcycles is they are not intimidating, they’re accessible, they’re stylish, they’re great for the nibbler person … if you tip it over you can pick it up, it’s not crazy horsepower," Poland says. "A lot of our very successful dealers are women too (including that top-selling dealer in the US from Connecticut). She understands the brand … the first motorcycle she ever rode on the street was a Royal Enfield, so she has a really good connection."

If rider interest at the IMS Royal Enfield booth is any indication, the company will continue its steady rise in the US next year. The new Continental GT even attracted the attention of at least one high-placed Kawasaki official during Friday's media day. The Japanese company has its own mid-range Ninja 400 coming out next year as well. City riders will be well served by the competition.

Royal Enfield promotional video | nov 2017
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