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In conversation with Markus Braunsperger, Chief Technology Officer at Hero MotoCorp

By Team Evo India

Published on :

Q: You’ve been in India for more than a year now. What have been your main takeaways from the country?
A: The biggest takeaway is how diverse the country is. Every day and every minute, I am exploring new things, culture-wise, people-wise and habit-wise. Coming back to motorcycles, the way people utilise motorcycles is completely different to the way where I come from. In the US and Europe, motorcycles aren’t seen just from a utility perspective, it’s seen from a leisure, weekend travel, multipurpose tool. But coming back here, we do talk about making the country mobile on one hand but looking here at the Auto Expo, in the premium segments and beyond, 250cc and upwards is already coming, and the bigger bikes are also coming, although only in small doses. So the journey is changing and this is thrilling.

Q: What is your plan for Hero and do you plan to take Hero upmarket?
A: First of all, I want to see Hero as a company being successful business-wise. I am an engineer with passion but finally, whatever we develop has to make money or has to contribute to further enhance the brand value. So focussing on that, I think it has to be a three-step approach. One is where we are. We have to focus on where we are – get the right products and strengthen our market position. What we have shown today, the Splendor iSmart 110, is already an answer to the highly attractive and highly successful segment for us. On the other side, the Xtreme 200S gives a clear statement – we want to gain market share in the upper premium segment. In between there is a lot of work to be done. In scooters, we have launched two models very successfully. The scooter journey will go on, but even beyond where we are operating right now, beyond 250cc, I think we will explore as a brand not just for the Indian market but for the global market as well.

Q: Is this engine completely new?
A: Right now, everything is new. It’s an all-new vehicle. We have moved from the horizontal to a vertical engine. We upgraded it to 110cc, developed fully in-house. We kept a close eye on friction reduction, this was the reason why on one side we were to deliver more performance, horsepower as well as torque, the gain in torque has been 12 per cent, which is significant. This while reducing fuel consumption. This makes this vehicle in all riding conditions very spontaneous and makes it easier to handle than the Splendor has been. It looks quite modern right now, but not that modern as it is still attractive to the rural customer.

Q: You’ve said that this is the most fuel efficient motorcycle in the world.
A: Fuel efficiency has improved by 6 per cent. Fuel efficiency is difficult to explain as the complete industry is moving to WMTC, and in WMTC, we claim 68kmpl.

Q: You’ve always been a 100cc company. Why the move to 110?
A: Clearly because the customer demands some more power on one side, and on the other side we had to move from the horizontal to the vertical engine because of emission requirements. So this was the reason why we did not come up with a new platform, that gives us the basis for future products as well. We will take this engine and grow this engine out in our complete range as well as we will deploy our i3S technology throughout the range. This is the reason why the i3S tech is applied to the 200cc Xtreme S as well.

Q: About the 200S, is it a ground up new design?
A: Yes. New 200cc engine. So far we haven’t operated with an air-cooled engine beyond 150cc so this one is a completely new engine offering 18.6 horsepower but more significant for me is the torque because it will be offered at 6000rpm which clearly shows how spontaneous the throttle of this vehicle is. From a customer point of view, this is much more important than a high rev performance that you never utilise. And that characteristic of the bike is quite comprehensive.

Q: Are these two engines related? Part of the same family?
A: No. These are two separate platforms.

Q: And now the third platform. The 3R. How far in the future is that?
A: Quite far away. Because the purpose of this is not showcasing a vehicle, it is exploring a styling design language. Right now we are operating mainly in 110cc up to 150cc with Karizma, and ZMR is 220. But we most definitely will move beyond 250. So the question we need to answer is styling; design-wise, being where we are, let’s get the Splendor iSmart as a reference point. How far can we go now. Our Splendor customer still needs to be a Hero customer beyond 250cc and the Hero customer beyond 250cc still has a completely unique styling design language. This is the reason we made the styling design concept to explore how far we can go because overall, it has to relate to Hero as a brand.

Q: So what does Hero as a brand stand for?
A: Today it stands for smart technology mainly focussing on the commuter segment. And smart technology like i3S, giving the customer additional features on the things he uses every day. But the brand right now stands basically for commuters.

Q: And you want to take it upmarket?
A: We will most definitely strengthen ourselves as a commuter brand but we will also go beyond where we are. And this will give a signal to our actual customers that it is not just about performance, features and styling. It is about brand value and brand aspiration. Going beyond 250cc will open future markets, even globally, and on the other side, it will help us in expanding our brand value in the commuter segment.

Q: How much of Honda is still present in Hero’s products?
A: Looking at the Splendor iSmart 110; zero. There’s zero Honda content in the Maestro Edge and Duet scooters too. There’s zero Hero Honda legacy left.

Q: Finally, what about the Impulse?
A: I have to tell you that looking in to our stable, the Impulse is the best bike Hero has and I know that there are many fans out here. And I am convinced that this on/off segment, I would call it multi purpose segment, is something we have to explore and we will explore it. I think the only reason the Impulse is only valued by insiders is because the seating height is an issue, and let’s say the design. Because this on/off Enduro segment is not known in India and this is why we have to be aware that despite having the capability, the bike shouldn’t look like an Enduro design because this is something the country thus far does not know. But we are exploring this. Being a fan, I am convinced that there is future potential for us around the Impulse.