My views on an Overdrive Magazine Article..
“Trial & Error”.. That is the title of the Pulsar 200 road test conducted by overdrive magazine (March 2007 issue). My first thought on reading the title was that the Pulsar 200 probably hasn’t turned out to be that great. But this feeling was totally in contrast with the one which I felt when I saw the Cover Page. The Cover Page of the Overdrive March 2007 issue had a photo of a rider on the Pulsar 200 along with the title, “The Best Pulsar Yet”.
The title got me interested and I wanted to know, what was the “Trial & Error” the article was talking about?
"The article states that the “Trial & Error” strategy of Bajaj has been extended to its premium “Pulsar” range.."The explanation according to the article: The article gives the example how Bajaj initially launched numerous models, most of which were flops. The article though accepts the fact that this was natural as Bajaj was trying to become a Motorcycle manufacturer from a Scooter manufacturer. The article then gives the example how Bajaj in a bid to become the market leader, has tried to attack Hero Honda on its home turf, i.e. the 100 C.C segment by launching cheaper products and providing more features to little avail. And now Bajaj plans to quit the 100 C.C segment altogether and develop new products aimed at winning maximum market share.
The article further states that the “Trial & Error” strategy of Bajaj has been extended to its premium “Pulsar” range as well. The Pulsar 150, 180, 200 and the soon to be launched 220 seems to be creating sort of a muddle.
"Of course the author of the article has his own right to believe so and write about it.. But let me put my views now.."My thoughts on reading the article: I am not totally convinced by the above argument. I agree that in the entry level segment (100 C.C), Bajaj has indeed tried every trick to remove Hero Honda from its leadership position. But I don’t really agree to the “Trial& Error” philosophy in the Pulsar range.
Of course the author of the article has his own right to believe so and write about it, which I totally appreciate. But let me put my views now.
My views: The 100 C.C Segment:
- Bajaj Auto: I agree with the author on this one. Bajaj tried to create a segment lower to the Hero Honda 100 C.C bikes previously with the “Boxer” and presently with the “CT100”. Bajaj also tried to give more value at the same price range as the 100 C.C Hero Honda bikes previously with the “Caliber” and presently with the “Platina”. Recently the prices of the Platina has been further reduced by Rs.3000. But one thing to be noticed is that the engine architecture used across these models has been the same barring a few tweaks.
Verdict: Trial & Error using single engine architecture.
TVS Motor: TVS motor tasted success initially with its “Victor” range. Slowly as the demand for the Victor dwindled, TVS tried a few variants of the Vicor, like the “Victor Edge”. TVS also burnt its fingers with its dud, the “Centra”. Recently the company seems to have found its focus by its “Star” series.
Verdict: Initially Trial & Error; Seems to have found focus now.
Yamaha Motors India: 100 C.C Yamaha have models like the “Crux”, “Crux--R”. The “Libero” (with the headlamp “Trial and Error”) and the present G5. None of them have managed to become best sellers. And since 2001, Yamaha Motors India has been incurring losses each year.
Verdict: Trial & Errors have been costly for Yamaha India.
Hero Honda: The 100 C.C models from Hero Honda have been the bread and butter models for Hero Honda till date. Majority of Hero Honda sales have come from these models. These models have enjoyed success right from the beginning. But look at the 100 C.C Hero Honda models till now.
- Hero Honda CD100
Hero Honda CD100 SS
Hero Honda Sleek
Hero Honda Joy
Hero Honda CD Dawn
Hero Honda CD Deluxe
Hero Honda Splendor
Hero Honda Splendor+
Hero Honda Passion
Hero Honda Passion+
Quite a long lineup I’d say. So is this “Trial & Error” by Hero Honda..??
No, I’d say. Hero Honda is very much aware that they have a winner in its hands in the form of the 100 C.C Honda Engine. So with the limited R&D input from Honda (Hero Honda depends on Honda for R&D), Hero Honda has been quite shrewd and successfully created different segments with different price points aimed at different customers. All that using the “same” 100 C.C block..!! Sharing the same engine block across different models have enabled Hero Honda to control manufacturing costs and make huge profits.
Verdict: Shrewd Marketing, definitely not Trial and Error (the 100 C.C engine has been always there).
My views: The 150 C.C (and Plus) Segment
- Hero Honda: The CBZ started the 150 C.C segment but Hero Honda had to stop production after a few years because the it could not compete in sales with the Bajaj Pulsar. A scaled down 133 C.C “Ambition” was tried using different headlamps. It’s production also had to be stopped. The “Achiever” was launched with a borrowed Honda Unicorn Engine. Even it wasn’t too successful. A new “Achiever” with alloys has been recently launched. CBZ was re launched as the CBZ Xtreme which essentially has the borrowed Honda Unicorn engine (tweaked for performance).
Verdict: Definitely “Trial & Error”
TVS Motor: TVS Suzuki “Fiero” which had a gem of an engine and gearbox had to be re launched as the TVS “Fiero F2” with slightly better styling. The “Apache” followed the “Fiero F2” with new 5 Gears and even better Styling. A new Apache is expected with (probably) a longer wheelbase.
Verdict: Trial & Error but improving with every attempt.
Honda India: Launched a “Commuter Friendly” 150 C.C Unicorn. Sales were way below Bajaj Pulsar and the TVS Fiero/Apache. Recently launched an alloy wheeled version of the Unicorn.
Verdict: Still haven’t found the formula to success. Present cosmetic upgrade is nothing but “Trial & Error”.
Bajaj Auto: The “Pulsar” will go down history as the model which resurrected Bajaj Auto. The “Pulsar” has given Bajaj Auto a new and confident identity. Since its launch the Pulsar has dominated the 150 C.C and above segment. It still continues to do so. The premium has higher margins compared to the entry level 100 C.C segment. So what is the rationale behind cluttering the market and confusing the customer by the following Pulsar models?
- Pulsar 150 DTSI
Pulsar 180 DTSI
Pulsar 200 DTSI
Pulsar 220 DTSFi
The answer can be found with the strategy adopted by Hero Honda with its 100 C.C series. Similar to how the 100 C.C engine is the Cash Cow for Hero Honda, Bajaj knows very well that the Pulsar is the Cash Cow for them. Using the same engine architecture like Hero Honda 100 C.C bikes, Bajaj is able to reduce manufacturing costs for the Pulsar range.
Verdict: Shrewd Marketing like Hero Honda 100 C.C bikes but providing more value to the customer than just different looks.
Conclusion: So you see, I don’t really believe in the argument that the Pulsars are an exercise in “Trial and Error”. On the contrary according to me barring Bajaj every other manufacturer has been engaged in “Trial & Error” in the 150 C.C (and Plus) segment, including Hero Honda. Even Hero Honda follows a similar strategy with its 100 C.C models.
So why the Pulsar 150,180,200,220..??
These 4 Pulsars are like 4 Brothers, guarding their territory against intruders
- Pulsar 150: For gaining volumes and maintaining market leadership in India in the 150 C.C segment
Pulsar 180: Important model for overseas market like Colombia, Indonesia. The 180 is exported to these countries.
Pulsar 200: Provide slightly better performance compared to the Hero Honda “Karizma’ along with extra features like Oil Cooling, Digital Speedometer, Broader Rear Tyre, Split Seats etc. All that at a price tag of about Rs. 12,000-13,000 less than the “Karimza”.
Pulsar 220: The flagship model for Bajaj.
Most importantly: With other bike makers getting interested in the 150 and above segment, these 4 Pulsars are like 4 Brothers guarding their territory against intruders.
This is to remind that the Views or Opinions in the blog are entirely mine unless explicitly stated. The Views and Opinions published in this blog should in no way be related to any other person or organization associated -- directly or indirectly -- with me.