Buell Motorcycles: A Passage to India

Erik Buell to make smaller bikes

Buell 1190SX

It's common knowledge that following the end of his rocky relationship Erik Buell went his own way and founded Erik Buell Racing. EBR spends a great deal of time making raceresque scoots but what you may not know is that roughly two thirds of the company's employees are hard at work designing cheap motorcycles and scooters for export to India, where ponies and sleek looks take a back seat to low price tags and survivability.

The reason for this venture: New Delhi's Hero MotoCorp, the largest bike manufacturer in India, bought a 49% stake in EBR last summer to the tune of $25 million. When someone forks over that much cash for that much interest in your company, they're going to want something in return. EBR's engineers have been hard at work on projects like a diesel motorcycle built for hauling heavier loads and a hybrid scooter that tops out at 62 mph. There are other models in the works targeting India's growing middle class.

If market research group Freedonia Group is right, the move makes a lot of sense. The firm projects that Indian customers will buy 21.1 million motorcycles in 2016. Come the summer of 2015, Hero will start selling four of its models to the U.S. and EBR will be the sole distributor of those machines. With domestic manufacturers offering more economical, low to mid displacement motorcycles now, the time may be right for Hero's move. The imports consist of a lightweight sport bike, a scooter, and gas-sipping commuter machines.