Royal Enfield combines NA HQ, operating dealership
Finally settled into the thriving Third Ward district of Milwaukee, Royal Enfield North America aims to make 2016 its best year yet. The first wholly-owned subsidiary of India-based Royal Enfield, the North American arm now operates from a century-old historic building.
“It was an enormous decision to start our first market outside of India. We feel that the North American market is very influential,” said Siddartha Lal, Royal Enfield’s CEO. “We’re investing extremely in the U.S.; our ambition is to be more responsive than any other motorcycle company to our dealers, and therefore, to our customers as well.”
Rod Copes, president of Royal Enfield North America and a Milwaukee native, felt the Third Ward was an excellent location for Royal Enfield to set up shop. “We really think that this is where our brand belongs,” said Copes.
From a demographic perspective, Copes said the Third Ward area appealed more to the millennial market that Royal Enfield hopes to attract and also furthers the idea of a cool, urban mode of transportation.
Copes worked with a developer for two years to both preserve and renovate the existing building within the historic requirements. “It’s a historic building, and it fits the historic nature of our brand,” added Copes. The inside of the flagship showroom features exposed brick accents, concrete floors, columns and modern, industrial lightning.
During the renovation period, the team operated out of a temporary space, which gave them all the start-up business mentality, despite having such a rich history in India. “It’s been fun to truly do a startup. I think it really helped ground us because we all had come from big companies, and it forced us to think differently,” said Copes. “Having that environment before we moved into these nice quarters was really humbling.”
Beginning Sept. 9, Royal Enfield North America hosted a grand opening weekend in its new facility, featuring an open house, food trucks and Royal Enfield brand ambassadors. In fact, the brand ambassadors took part in a ride to celebrate the grand opening alongside executives and enthusiasts alike.
Along with serving as a headquarters for Royal Enfield North America, the Milwaukee location will also be a fully operational dealership, a decision that Lal says was important to the company. “We figured from our past experience in India that it is exceedingly helpful for a market company to actually run a store. You get to learn much more than you would if you’re just selling to dealers,” Lal added.
In the future, the dealership has the potential to serve as a training space for both prospective and existing dealers. “We think there are a number of benefits of having a dealership adjacent to our corporate office,” said Copes. “We can use it in a number of ways to benefit not just us, but they’ll benefit the customer and the dealer — a triple win, very important for us.”
With approximately 20 employees, Royal Enfield North America heads into 2016 with two goals. “Our primary focus right now is 1) To develop a dealer network and 2) Focus on brand awareness, marketing and getting our brand there,” Copes added.
One of the first additions to the North America team was a social and digital marketing manager to help further brand awareness. Copes said that the next step will be growing the brand on a local level, with in-store events, like the grand opening, and using social channels to promote Royal Enfield’s signature brand.
“We want people to experience our brand in a full way, and that’s what our brand reflects. Hopefully they’ll understand what we’re trying to do and it acts as a catalyst for them. When they join up to our family and start a dealership, they will also do something which reflects the Royal Enfield brand of thinking,” said Lal.
Royal Enfield’s dealer base has grown to about 30 dealers, with a goal of 100 dealers from the top metro markets in the U.S. and Canada. While the company isn’t targeting any specific type of dealer, with the price point and volume, it makes sense to begin with multi-line dealers. “Ninety percent of our dealers will probably be multi-line to start with, but ideally, as we grow and we introduce new products, the dealers will become more profitable, and more may select exclusive facility or a store-within-a-store type of approach,” said Copes.
Based on its grand opening weekend, both Copes and Lal have received very positive feedback from numerous sources. “People were very excited about the showroom space, about the motorcycles, about the apparel, so I haven’t heard any negatives; it all seems to be positive, which is good,” said Copes. “
In both U.S. and Canada, Royal Enfield will offer four middleweight motorcycles: The Continental GT, Classic, Classic Chrome and Bullet. With an MSRP of less than $6,000 for all bikes, Royal Enfield is set up to cater to a new generation of buyers with accessible price points.
“I believe people resonate extremely well with the idea of what we can accomplish, which is to take motorcycling back to the time when it was a simple, fun, honest experience,” said Lal. “It’s the concept of old school motorcycling, but in a modern context.”
Looking ahead to 2017, Royal Enfield is also working on another offering in the middleweight segment. The Himalayan, according to Lal, echoes the company’s philosophy of simplicity and fun, and although it is not being sold in North America at this time, he’s hopeful it will be in the future.
Originally designed specifically for use in India, the North American subsidiary took interest in the bike as a niche motorcycle for the mature market. Copes said the Himalayan’s price point, type of motorcycle and off-road capabilities make it appealing for a North American market.
“It’s certainly an option and something that we’re working on,” said Lal. “It’s more about meeting the right regulations and meeting the right price point. … We still have to make a formal decision, but we would love to sell the Himalayan (in North America).”
“We’re in the process of working with India to establish a project that would homologate that motorcycle, so we can sell it in the states next year. I’m hopeful that we’ll get that ironed out,” said Copes.
Royal Enfield’s business in India has seen record growth in the past decade. In 2010, the company sold 50,000 motorcycles for the full year. Last year, it sold 500,000, and this year Lal said the company is on target to sell 675,000 motorcycles.