If there’s one motorcycle brand that’s admirable enough to make people sit up and take notice, it’s got to be this one. Royal Enfield. Originally from England, the now Indian-owned brand is taking the motorcycle world by storm. With its refined, easy-to-use, and affordable neo-retro motorcycles, Royal Enfield is gradually expanding its footprint and becoming a large-scale global player.
Despite its illustrious history as the world’s oldest motorcycle brand, Royal Enfield has had its fair share of struggles, which have tested its fortunes and predictions for the future. However, surmounting all odds, Royal Enfield has made a successful comeback, especially in recent times with the introduction of all-new generation 350cc and 650cc motorcycles, with the Hunter 350 being the latest in the series. Here are a few with the latest additions. Facts straight from the detailed history of Royal Enfield, that everyone looking for the brand should know.
Beginnings – Royal Enfield’s journey as a ‘purely British’ brand
It all started in 1901, when the Enfield Cycle Company Ltd. from Redditch, Worcestershire began manufacturing motorcycles under the ‘Royal Enfield’ brand name. Its first motorcycle had a simple air-cooled, single-cylinder, 239cc engine. However, the sub-brand that brought its first success story was the Bullet 350, its first motorcycle with a four-stroke engine.
The Bullet 350 now holds the title of motorcycle with the longest continuous production, still on sale in some markets 90 years after its birth in 1932. Since then, the Bullet 350 has received several iterations, including 250cc and 500cc versions. . Royal Enfield also has a record of producing motorcycles to support the armed forces during the First and Second World Wars.
After World War II, Royal Enfield produced the 350cc Model G, 500cc Model J, 350cc Bullet, 500cc Meteor, 700cc Super Meteor, 700cc Constellation, and a range of 250cc motorcycles, including the Continental GT. Its last model during British ownership was the 736cc Interceptor, which gained great popularity in America, but had a short life due to demand and supply issues. The British-owned brand ceased operations in 1970, except in India, where new owners took over ownership and rights and continued the Royal Enfield legacy.
A different land, ‘second innings’ in India
Royal Enfield was one of the first motorcycle brands and was chosen by the newly appointed government after India’s independence in 1947. At that time, the Bullet 350 began to serve as a means of transportation for the Indian armed forces, a purpose it continues to serve. Serve today.
In 1955, the Redditch company partnered with Madras Motors to create a new brand called ‘Enfield India’. The new brand got the series production rights to the 350cc Bullet, which was built in England using tooling sourced from Royal Enfield. In the late 70s of the 20th century, Royal Enfield began to stop production of motorcycles, but the Indian unit continued to manufacture licensed Bullets. In 1978, the Indian branch of the brand, still under a partnership, bought the rights and changed its name to Enfield India Limited.
The new brand continued to manufacture motorcycles such as the 350cc Bullet and also began exporting to the UK and Europe. In the following years Royal Enfield introduced new models, including the 24 hp Bullet and the exclusive Enfield diesel. In 1994, the current owner, the Eicher Group, took over the ownership of Enfield India Limited and renamed it Royal Enfield Motors Limited.
Under the new ownership, Royal Enfield gradually began introducing motorcycles such as the revised Bullet with a new all-aluminum engine, the Thunderbird, the Bullet Maximo, the 500cc Bullet, and the Bullet Electra. It also inaugurated a new plant in North India as part of its expansion plans. However, lower-than-expected sales of these models affected Royal Enfield, which faced challenges such as labor strikes and the closure of its North Indian plant three years after its inauguration.
The ‘classic’ twist that changed its fortunes
The first sign of good things to come was the appointment of Siddharth Lal as the new CEO and MD of parent company Eicher, who is credited with reviving the brand. Royal Enfield finally got a much-needed ray of hope in 2008 when it launched the all-new Classic with a 500cc Euro-III version, followed by the 350cc Classic in 2009. Both these models worked like magic for Royal Enfield and got the cash registers ringing. for the company. With the 500cc Classic, Royal Enfield began exploring new export markets.
From 2011 onwards, Royal Enfield began riding high on the success of the Classic and introduced new models such as the all-new Thunderbird 350cc and 500cc and the Continental GT 535 Café Racer. Royal Enfield also made new moves such as launching an annual ‘One Ride’ event in 2011, expanding production with a new plant in South India in 2013, opening a new technology center in the UK, and a new third plant in South India. .
In 2015, Royal Enfield entered the US market with headquarters in Milwaukee, becoming the company’s first direct distribution subsidiary outside India. Additionally, Royal Enfield explored new worlds with its first adventure tourer Himalayan in 2016 and the new Interceptor 650 (known as INT 650 in the US) and the Continental GT 650 with 650cc parallel-twin engines in 2018. Motorcycles with the new 350cc J-series engine, such as the Meteor 350, Classic 350, and Hunter 350.
With new models in the pipeline and expansion into other new markets the future of Royal Enfield already looks bright. This growth reflects the determination of Royal Enfield as a brand, which has set a good example for other brands as well.