WHILE MOST MOTORCYCLES are getting faster, quicker, sleeker and better handling than the previous year’s models, one brand bucking that trend and doing so quite successfully is Royal Enfield. One of the industry’s oldest brands is still producing and selling the industry’s oldest model, the 500cc Bullet.
The Bullet was born in the UK in 1949. In 1957 the tooling was sold to Royal Enfield’s distributor in India, Enfield India, and it’s been producing continually improved versions of that basic model ever since. The bikes are imported to the United States by Royal Enfield USA, headquartered in Cannon Falls, Minn., and owned by Kevin Mahoney, an ex-manual arts instructor, and long-time motorcycle sales veteran Ron Greene.
Mahoney acquired the distribution rights in 1998, and the brand limped along until 2010 with sales between 300 and 350 units per year. In 2010, with most of the industry looking at continually declining sales, Greene said Royal Enfield doubled its sales and, for the first quarter of this year, is 62 percent ahead of last year. Granted we’re not talking huge numbers, but we’re not talking huge media expenses or a lot of publicity, either.
Last year the brand retailed 700 units, this year’s sales are forecasted at 800-plus, and for 2013, they’re forecasting 1,000. Greene attributes growth to a number of reasons — improved product, the fact that the bikes are now legal in California, and reliability underlined with an industry-competitive two-year warranty. A serious effort was launched about two years ago to develop an improved and expanded dealer organization. By the end of the year they expect to have dealers in all states, and are making a contentious effort to weed out “hobby” dealers. To that end, they expect most of their dealers to retail between 25 and 50 units annually.