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This Information Royal Enfield ThunderBird 500. Missed Opportunity?, Read More

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This Information Royal Enfield ThunderBird 500. Missed Opportunity?, Read More

I would have redesigned and repositioned the Thunderbird..
Royal Enfield is on the verge of launching a new and bigger Thunderbird 500 (cc) in India. It is being positioned as the ultimate touring machine. Will it be another best seller from Royal Enfield?
I actually can’t find a category for the Thunderbird..

it's confused..!!
For the record, the Thunderbird is only sold in India and not exported anywhere. Why? Because in export markets Royal Enfields are bought because of its 1940’s-50’s British bike heritage/styling. The Thunderbird is anything but a retro styled British bike. Royal Enfield seems to have put in a lot of effort in the new Thunderbird 500. But despite the efforts the basic theme/styling of the bike still is same as the current Thunderbird Twinspark (350).

According to me Royal Enfield has not totally learned from the success of its "Classic" range in India.

Royal Enfield: “Classic” Turnaround

Made primarily with the export markets in focus, Royal Enfield never anticipated the huge demand that its Classic 350/500 models generated in India. In fact they are still struggling to meet the domestic demand for the Classic 350/500. The waiting list for these models is as long as 9-10 months. The most important learning point for Royal Enfield here was that the Classic 350/500 models were successful in grabbing the attention of the traditionally “non-Royal Enfield” biker. The increasing number of upwardly mobile young riders on the Classic as seen in our cities is proof of these successful conversions.

Royal Enfield: More than just a “Bullet”

Before the Classic models, the Royal Enfield and “Bullet” name was used interchangeably and loosely. In fact when initially launched the official mini site for the classic model was But success of the Classic gave an opportunity to Royal Enfield to sort out its brand strategy in India. So now we have 3 sub brands: Bullet (350/Electra Twinspark), Classic (350/500) and Thunderbird.

As a bike enthusiast, I understand the "Bullet" and the "Classic"..

The “Bullet” range is reproduces the original 60 year old Royal Enfield design. The 350 Twinspark with just one body color. (i.e. Black) is more original than the Electra Twinspark which is a modern interpretation of the Bullet with color options, gas filled rear shock absorbers, front disc brake and an electric starter.

The “Classic” range is the modern interpretation of a retro/timeless design with modern features like fuel injection. With Rs. 1.5 lakhs one can now become a biker with retro/mature/classic taste. Among a sea of plastic bikes/bikers the “Classic” models give a change to stand apart in the crowd. No wonder why non Royal Enfield/new/young bikers are now ready to make the “Classic” transition.

In summary the Bullet appeals to the traditional hardcore Bulleteer and the Classic appeals to the biker with an evolved/mature taste. So where does the Thunderbird fit in?

..but I do not understand the "Thunderbird"..!!

In 2002 dreams of owing a Harley Davidson in India were just .. err dreams. Bike enthusiasts used to modify the Bullet to make Harley Davidson lookalikes. The Thunderbird was therefore conceptualized to appeal to those bikers; therefore it got that scooped seat, raised front suspension and tall-wide handlebars. In 2002 the Thunderbird might have cut ice, but in 2012 with the real McCoy (Harley Davidson) present in India, the Royal Enfield Thunderbird appears well.. confused.

With 19/18” wheels (front/back) the Thunderbird is anything but low slung; even with its scooped seat. The raised front forks are nowhere like the kicked out forks of a proper cruiser. Even the footpegs are positioned like a normal road bike and not like the feet forward position of a cruiser. I actually can’t find a category of motorcycles in which I can fit the Thunderbird.

(2012) Thunderbird 500, a Missed opportunity

The Thunderbird might have a few fans in India but I really doubt if the new Thunderbird can expand the base in a big way. I have my doubts if the Thunderbird 500 would be able to replicate the same “Classic” phenomenon of converting a breed of traditionally non-Royal Enfield bikers. The styling of the Thunderbird is confused. It is not an honest traditional British bike, nor is it a true American style laid back cruiser. Thanks to the global exposure, the Indian biker has matured a lot in his taste and aesthetic sense to make out the difference.

Had I been at the helm of Product Planning at Royal Enfield, instead of continuing with the current confused positioning, I would have repositioned the Thunderbird as a “Modern Royal Enfield”.
Bullet: For the traditional hardcore “Bulleteer”
Classic: For the biker who wants to showoff his mature taste in bikes
Thunderbird: For the biker who wants a “Modern Royal Enfield”
How? By following the design of the Harley Davidson “Sportster” and chucking out the cruiser ambitions. The Sportster design is not the traditional Harley Davidson Cruiser design. The footpegs are not feet forward and the front forks are not kicked out. As the name suggests the “Sportster” is a sportier/modern interpretation.

An honest copy of the Sportster is better than the confused styling of the current Thunderbird. Also Harley Davidson is not that strongly associated with the Sportster/Roadster styling as it is with the feet forward, low slung cruiser styled models.

A modern day Royal Enfield.. yes, that's how the Thunderbird should have been. Don't you think so?

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