Harley in India, Finally

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The Hogs are in India, but they’ll still be Made in America machines.

There is a strange connection between Alphonso mangoes and Harley-Davidson. Both are much coveted, top-of-the-pops in their respective categories, and are part of an Indo-US exchange pact. Confused? More on that in a minute. But first, American motorcycle icon Harley-Davidson made its formal entry into India last week by opening its first showroom in Hyderabad, which is to be followed soon by outlets in Chandigarh and Delhi. 

“We are redefining leisure riding with the introduction of 12 models while creating a new premium market. There has been a tremendous response already, but it will take some time to develop the Indian market,” gloats Anoop Prakash, MD, Harley-Davidson India. The mean machines with 883 cc to 1800 cc engines are being priced between Rs 7 lakh and a whopping Rs 35 lakh. Harley’s basic model is more powerful than India’s largest-selling compact car, the 796 cc Maruti Alto.

Interestingly, the trade off for Hogs to be hawked in India was the entry of Alphonso Mangoes into the US. For more than two decades, Indian mangoes were not allowed into the US because of pest risks. The two governments decided to do a swap. The first shipment of 150 boxes of juicy Alphonsos and Gujarat’s pride Kesar mangoes were sent to the US in mid-2007 at $36 per dozen. The Harley took time zipping into India. Now, one can expect more of these motorcycles to rev-up their distinctive exhaust note at highway toll booths across India, as the bike is primarily being sold in the leisure market. “There have already been advance bookings”, says Harley’s Prakash, when the bikes were first showcased during the January Auto Expo in Delhi. But he won’t reveal the numbers just yet. 

Harley-Davidson, a $4 billion company with presence in over 70 countries, could not enter the Indian market for years due to high tariffs and strict emission regulations. 

All the models (relaxed to Euro III standards) now available are being imported and thus attract 100 per cent customs duty. They  will be sold through the company’s Gurgaon-based Indian subsidiary. Harley is loath to giving up its ‘Made in America’ tag and won’t consider making the bikes in India anytime soon.