5 Brands From The Past We DON’T Miss

  • May 6, 2023
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Bikes that work (or don’t) are passè; this time it’s entire brands that missed the mark!

From small, fuel-efficient commuters to absolute fire-breathers, all find a space in the Indian two-wheeler market. And yet, there’s more to selling a bike here than just showing up with a few models, even for manufacturers with deep roots. So here are five brands that couldn’t quite hack it, and are now relegated to the pages of history

Hyosung

Back in 2005, the Korean brand made inroads (with Kinetic’s help) launching the Aquila 250 cruiser and Comet GT 250 street bike, the first unit of the latter “bought” by actor Saif Ali Khan. Both bikes sported a 250cc liquid-cooled V-twin, making 30PS and 22Nm, massive figures at a time when the Hero Honda Karizma’s 17PS/18Nm was considered ‘properly fast’. However, the Comet retailed for Rs 1.67 lakh, while the Aquila was priced at Rs 1.72 lakh (both ex-showroom) making them both ‘properly costly’ as well. And yet despite not really being volume sellers, they still found buyers for the allocated units, after which an ailing Kinetic group meant Hyosung had to shut shop. 

Hyosung subsequently persisted in the Indian market, first as partners with Garware Motors, and then with Pune-based DSK Group. This time around, though, the Comet 250 got the R suffix and came in a faired avatar. However, its 250cc V-twin, now fuel-injected, had been detuned to 28PS. Also on offer were the Aquila Pro cruiser, Comet GT 650 street bike and its faired version, the GT 650R, all sporting a 650cc v-twin making 73PS and 61Nm. But this time around too, the lack of dealer support brought a swift end to their existence.

Hyosung had its heart in the right place, and had it done its homework with regards to aftersales, would have had a much longer and more rewarding Indian innings.

UM Motorcycles

United Motors Motorcycles (repetition much?) set up camp in late 2014, joining hands with Lohia Motors (of LML scooters fame). Their first few offerings, the Renegade Commando and Renegade Sport S, offered 280cc air-cooled units making a decent 24PS and 24Nm. However, at Rs 1.85 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) they weren’t at all affordable. Their designs, too, seemed derivative, as the Commando resembled the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, while the Sport resembled the Suzuki Intruder. And despite all this, the few buyers they did bring in were left dejected by these bikes’ atrocious fit and finish.  

Further offerings from UM, too, had little luck; the Renegade Commando Mojave was just a paint job, while the Renegade Commando Classic was basically the Commando with an added flyscreen. And finally, disagreements between UM and the Lohia group led to the partnership ending abruptly in 2019, leaving high and dry not just the few owners who had bought these bikes, but also all their dealers.

Cleveland Cyclewerks 

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Shuru hote hi khatam ho gaya (finished as soon as it started)”; this dialogue from Munnabhai’s sidekick Circuit perfectly characterises Cleveland Cyclewerks’ India story. The brand came in with much pomp and fanfare at the 2018 Auto Expo, and were all set for a mid-2019 launch. But then, the ABS mandate for all bikes over 125cc threatened to play spoilsport, though Cleveland asserted that it had ABS products in the pipeline for both its offerings, the Ace and the Misfit. Besides, the absence of ABS could mean competitive pricing, too. 

What materialised, though, was a bike with a 229cc air-cooled engine making a measly 15.4PS and 16Nm, but priced at Rs 2.23 lakh (ex-showroom). All this at a time when the KTM 200 Duke, making 25PS and 19Nm from its liquid-cooled mill, could be had for Rs 1.9 lakh (ex-showroom). On top of that, these bikes felt like college projects put together by students, and not even the toppers! This immediately put off any prospective buyers, bringing CCW’s plans to a crashing halt. 

FB Mondial

Started by brothers Luigi, Carlo, Ettore and Ada Boselli, Italian brand FB (Fratelli Boselli) Mondial was started in 1929, and went on to become a dominant force in motorcycle racing in the 1950s. Skip to 2019, though, and it was a relatively unknown Italian name (with Chinese roots, no less) that came to India via Kinetic-owned Motoroyale. 

Its first (and ultimately only) offering, the HPS 300, was a curious mix of cafe racer and scrambler, with upright aesthetics, but rearset footpegs, and block-pattern tyres. Besides, despite having ‘300’ in its name, it had a 249cc liquid-cooled mill making a decent 25Ps and 21Nm. But at Rs 3.37 lakh (ex-showroom) it found very few takers.

Moreover, Motoroyale itself shut shop just before the pandemic hit, turning what could have been a quirky niche manufacturer into a faded memory.

Kanda

Another brand very few people may have heard of; Kanda, the Pune (Maharastra)-based bikemaker seemed doomed from the start, not least because “kanda” means “onion” in the local language!

Starting out in the early 2000s, it brought in two motorcycles (with engines from Chinese brand Lifan). They were the 125cc Mission, and the 100cc Brave. And though they came in at quite a bargain-basement price, customers got what they paid for. The frequent engine failures and lacklustre quality marred the brand’s name beyond redemption, and Kanda shut shop within the decade.

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