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The Rise And Rise Of Scooters

It was the year 1948 when Pune-based automaker Bajaj Auto imported geared Vespa scooters and introduced it on Indian roads, thus becoming the first scooter dealer in the country

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It was the year 1948 when Pune-based automaker Bajaj Auto imported geared Vespa scooters and introduced it on Indian roads, thus becoming the first scooter dealer in the country. Till mid-1980s, it enjoyed a near monopoly in the Indian market, facing little competition from the alliance of Piaggio and LML. However, from mid-1980s, when demand for motorcycles took off in a big way, scooters started losing its popularity.

Things took a turnaround in 2000 when Japanese auto giant Honda (Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India) introduced the gearless scooter — Activa — in the Indian market. In no time, it became a grand success and kicked off a new era of gearless scooters in the Indian auto market. Easy to maintain and fun to ride, scooters have become immensely popular among Indian two-wheeler buyers. From a nominal market share of 14 per cent in financial year 2007-08, scooters now command over 31.9 per cent of the total two-wheeler sales in the country.

If recent numbers are anything to buy, it was a scooter that emerged as the best-selling two-wheeler in the recently concluded fiscal 2017-18. Honda’s bestseller Activa dethroned Hero’s Splendor to emerge as the largest-selling two-wheeler brand in India. The gearless scooter clocked sales of 2.75 million units last year whereas Splendor managed sales of 2.55 million units.

So what’s pushing scooter sales? We asked daily commuters to know why they are increasingly buying scooters instead bikes.

Rohan Kapur, 22, a Delhi University student, said, “The stigma attached that gearless scooters are built for females exists no more. Scooters are cosmopolitan. Though it has certainly given wings to female drivers and opened a new unexplored market for manufacturers, men will continue to buy scooters.”

Shivani Sharma, 28, a school teacher, said, “Scooters are easy to ride. Self-start, automatic gear and lightweight helps in easy handling. If your scooters shut down on a crowded road, it won’t be a case of putting effort to reignite the engine, you just have to press the self button.”

BP Singh, 50, a government employee, said, “Lower mileage was a reason why we used to prefer motorcycles over scooters. Now a scooter’s fuel efficiency is as good as a motorcycle and is much comfortable to ride.”

From 35-40 km a litre, scooters now run as much as 60-70km on a litre of petrol.

All said and done, the dominance of scooter market is expected to increase in future. Though Honda is still the market leader and best-placed player in the segment, auto majors such as Hero, TVS, Yamaha and Suzuki are also aggressively expanding their reach in the market. The numerous launches lined up by the players in the coming months and increase acceptability in smaller towns gives an indication that scooters will very soon own half of the Indian roads.