Fuel Efficiency is Dead and Buried

By: Deepesh

As a marketing weapon, that is.
The TVS Star returns 102kpl, the Hero Honda Splendor - last I checked - returns 85 kilometers to a liter of fuel; the Bajaj CT 100 is a 101kpl bike.

To borrow a cliche from The Cranberries "Ode to my family," Does anyone care?
I remember the 1980s - the era of the mopeds. To most people in the 1980s, the moped was representative of two-wheeled freedom - once they were more popular than scooters and miles ahead of motorcycles. Now they are just a small fraction of overall motorcycle sales.

What went wrong?
I feel the obsession with mileage got the better of people. The mopeds claimed some outrageous numbers for their stamina - the Hero Puch's 91kpl, the Atlas Powerking's 93kpl and someone's 108kpl were figures that adorned newspaper advertisements.

What went wrong?
The Puch sold well - not because of its claims of 91 kilometers to a liter, but because it was trendy and cool and a school / college going youngster could be seen in public atop it and still have his reputation intact.

The Mofa didn't - it was too rudimentary, uncool and had no oomph value.

No one noticed that it claimed 122kilometres to a litre.

And when the time came when people could get a Hero Honda CD 100 - that looked generations ahead of any moped (and was) - they promptly switched loyalties.

Life for mopeds has been downhill since.
Motorcycles have been luckier, the people behind them wiser and the market more evolved. So while a Star Sports mentions the 102kpl, it is more of a passing mention. Not shouting over the roof-tops with a loudspeaker. The Platina too does nothing more than a passing mention of its fuel efficiency.

The marketing buzzwords now are looks, lifestyle and desirability.

Bajaj Platina adverts go ga-ga over the looks - the looks of a bike which is essentially bottom rung of the desirability ladder!

How cool is that!
Or the TVS Star Sports adverts which show a girl finally consenting to ride pillion with a guy, just because he now owns a Star Sports. Again, the Star Sports rubs shoulders with the Platina in the market.

No wonder the TVS girl wears specs!
Surprisingly, the top-of-the-rung bikes like the Karizma, Pulsar and Apache do not hark on the desirability. Look at the recent adverts - the Pulsar is about being wild and free, the Apache is about being....ummm....wild and free and the Karizma is about being ahead of the pack.

Coming back to the reason why I started writing this post - fuel efficiency as a marketing weapon seems to be dead. Maybe, because the manufacturers realized that launching a new variant or product every second month and shouting about its fuel efficiency, just so that the rival can better it in a month's time, wasn't a very good idea. Remember it was only some time back that we had the Hero Honda Joy, Bajaj Caliber, Boxer (and its 100 variants), Caliber 115 and TVS Centra all romping around in the market. Some of them are dead, some on ventilator support.

Brands are now being built, stronger, and around numerous other virtues, apart from fuel efficiency. And manufacturers now want long-lasting brands.

Bajaj, which must be holding an unenviable record of most "dead" two-wheeler brands in India, is now focusing on its current crop. So the Pulsar (flagship, in four engine sizes 150cc-220cc) stays till Rahul Bajaj's grandsons start running BAL. The Discover will be built on and will have three engines to choose from (110cc - 135cc) and the Platina will be around till Bajaj can extract the maximum out of its existing 100cc platform.

Hero Honda too wants to build upon its strong brands. The Karizma will stay (more likely becoming Charismas Xtreme), the CBZ Xtreme will continue, the Achiever will die (is it currently alive?), the Glamour may live (will need hard work), the Splendor will live (obviously!), the Dawn will die and the entry level battle will be fought with the CD 100 Deluxe.

Mileage and Fuel
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