Friday, January 21, 2011

Royal Enfield's new CEO unveils two new models
at New York International Motorcycle Show

The new Royal Enfield Classic Chrome
Royal Enfield's new CEO unveiled two new Royal Enfield motorcycles today at the International Motorcycle Show in New York City.

The Classic Chrome looks to me like a "Deluxe" model of the C5, with chrome fenders.

New Royal Enfield Bullet 500 likes like the 350 of old.
The Bullet 500 bears a startling resemblance to India's much beloved 350cc Bullet, the model that was in continuous production for 50 years. With its full rear fender and two-up seat, it will bring a tear to the eye of those who mourned the passing of that iconic motorcycle.

The pictures posted on the motor show website both show motorcycles with kick start levers. C5 motorcycles sold in the United States so far have had electric start only. Those sold in India come with both. Will the U.S. market get kick starters, a popular feature? The New York debut is described as a "world unveiling" of these models, so features may differ in our market.

Dr. Venki Padmanabhan, new CEO of Royal Enfield.
Doing the unveiling is Dr. Venki Padmanabhan, Royal Enfield Chief Executive Officer, effective this month. For two years he has been chief operating officer for Royal Enfield. These were two years in which Royal Enfield posted a 21 per cent growth in sales volume.

Dr. Padmanabhan (he has a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh) is a U.S. citizen with extensive experience in the U.S. auto industry. He started his career in 1989 with General Motors at its Warren Technical Center. In 1999 he was at Buick City Assembly Plant in Flint, Mich., where Buick Park Avenues and Pontiac Bonnevilles were assembled.

From 2000-2004 he was a production shift leader in Lansing, Mich. where the Cadillac brand was restored to its former glory with the CTS, SRX and STS.

In 2004 he joined DaimlerChrysler Corp., moving in 2006 to Stuttgart, Germany to serve with the Mercedes division.

A remarkable careeer, but here is the interesting part for Royal Enfield owners and enthusiasts: Dr. Padmanabhan's biography notes that "throughout his automotive career he has experienced the agony and ecstasy of struggling to resuscitate fabled brands at GM, Chrysler and Mercedes."

Royal Enfield must be ecstatic that demand for its motorcycles is so great that production can't keep up. Popularity brings rewards, but there will be risks ahead as well.

Siddhartha Lal, head of Eicher Motors Limited, which includes Royal Enfield, put it this way when he announced the promotion of Dr. Padmanabhan to CEO:

"Venki has been with Royal Enfield for... two years now and brings with him a great experience and ‘can-do’ spirit which will be required to scale up our operations and get us towards our world-class quality and other long-term ambitions."

As CEO, Dr. Padmanabhan replaces R.L. Ravichandran, who moves up a wider role at EML.


  1. Anonymous1/21/2011

    I do like the more fully valanced fenders/mudguards of the Classic Chrome and the Bullet 500.

    Al in Philadelphia

  2. Anonymous1/21/2011

    Did the article make clear that the pictured Bullet 500 was NOT available in the U.S.?

    Al in Philadelphia

  3. Ankur Borwankar1/22/2011

    This is a feeble attempt by Royal Enfield to bring back its most loyal customers, those who were dead agains the shift to AVL engines and left-shift gear boxes.

    I am a proud owner of the original Standard 350, with right side gears and the cast iron engine that announces your arrival from 2 blocks away. I will never ever look at RE the way I used to when I was a kid: never again the same awe and respect.

    Royal Enfield is now a company that aims to please the masses, not the exclusive owners it once had. Royal Enfield is dead. What remains is Indian Enfield, a sad testament to what was once the greatest passion-manufacturer in the world.

  4. Venkat1/23/2011

    Dear Ankur Borwankar,

    U are soooo Wrong.... CI is legendary, no arguments there...
    But u are not welcoming change......
    U can never get a CI engine to perform like a UCE 500 EFI... Take it from me I have seen it all. But still CI is legendary no doubts but UCE/EFI burns the bitumen...

  5. Anonymous1/23/2011

    It seems that the English language used in the Subcontinent is diverging from standard English in both pronunciation and spelling usage. How long will it be before there is no mutual intelligibility? "U" can see an example of this in the previous posting.

    Al in Philadelphia

  6. I liked the line about burning bitumen. What's interesting is here you have two guys both probably from India arguing about how great Royal Enfield was/is. I tend to agree: with them both!

  7. Anonymous2/01/2011

    The Classic Chrome could be next Machismo in India. Drool!

  8. Ankur Borwankar6/14/2011

    I have no doubts that the AVL engine can perform well; I have tested it myself. But you forget, my friend, that nobody buys a Bullet for speed or for mileage. Only weak techies buy this bike, because they can't handle the weight and ride of the CI. If I wanted a fast bike, I'd buy a Japanese Honzuki or whatever they're called.

    You don't realise, Mr. Venkat, that the Bullet is meant to get you from A to B in style, in comfort. These are the pride and joy of motorcycle owners. They're moody, they're slightly ungainly, but hey, that's the whole charm! If I see a man riding an old Enfield today, I think, "Man, that guy really loves his bike. He's maintained it, polished it and he's not trying to be a speed demon". And I'll tell you what, I'd rather be friends or have any sort of relationship with these people. Simply for the reason that they are responsible, and they know how to look after something.

    Also, your AVL engine will last 6, 7 years if you're lucky and maintain it. Come back 50 years from now, and my bike will be better than it is today. It will sound better, it will look better, and it will run like silk.

    What RE has done is made a mass produced machine, no different from a Pulsar or a Bajaj Avenger. You remember the Avenger-phase? Where everyone wanted one because it looked cool? That's what's going to happen with this bike. One day, it'll completely mix in with the crowd.

    That said, I would kill for the looks of the new Classic. But I would never give up my Standard 350 for that 'luminum engine. If you've bought a new Classic, I'm sorry, it's a good bike. But it's not a Bullet.

  9. Well said Ankur, Infact we cant fight on which is good or which is bad. We actually need two bikes today to satisfy the classic loving instinct and fulfill the city and fast speeds.
    Old std 350 and modern bikes have no comparision. its like comparing a real cow milk with original grape wine. both are good but both are polar oposite in their character. I have driven modern bikes a lot fron 100 cc to 180 cc and I own a 1995 model std 350. I can say both are important for a man.

    1. @Vijay, you say "fulfill the city and fast speeds"? What on earth for dude? To get killed, or even worse maimed for life? Every day, these Japanese plastic trash kill and maim hundreds (or maybe even thousands) as a result of "speed". Now tell me how many times does one hear of such happenings on the old Std Bullets? The sad thing is (As @Ankur alluded to), RE has now decided to join this same rubbish! The fact is that the latter survived in India and Indian CONDITIONS for over 50 years for a jolly good reason! And these conditions are not going to go away anytime in our life times. If anything there is all the more reason to justify the presence of the lovely yet sturdy old Bullets. That is why the demand for these (in the 2nd hand market now only,sadly) has paradoxically INCREASED!


Follow royalenfields on Twitter