Royal Enfield Is Planning a Big Comeback in the U.S.

We spoke with Royal Enfield North America president Rod Copes about the iconic brand's incredible resurgence.

Narayan Maharjan/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t noticed, but Royal Enfield motorcycles has been experiencing some rapid growth over the past few years. Most of that growth has been taking place in its home market of India and it’s so significant that it’s starting to influence its global products including bikes coming to the U.S.

We had a chance to speak with Royal Enfield North America president Rod Copes about the growth of the brand and what we can expect in the near future. “Royal Enfield is very iconic in India,” Copes said about the brand’s growth. “Now that the middle class [in India] is really accelerating and growing, a lot of people are coming back and buying a Royal Enfield as a second vehicle. It can be partially for commuting but there’s a recreational angle as well.”

So why does India like Royal Enfield so much? It’s partially because the whole Indian motorcycle industry has been growing and Royal Enfield has the good fortune of being a well-known, aspirational brand in that market. “India has become the largest two-wheeler market in the world,” said Copes. “About 15 million are sold per year there, most of them 150cc and below. People are beginning to step up into the middleweight segment.” Royal Enfield considers “middleweight” to be between 250cc and 750cc and that’s the brand’s bread and butter. Its goal isn’t necessarily to be the best selling motorcycle brand in India but to dominate that growing middleweight segment that it’s so good at.

“We’re 100 percent focused on the middleweight segment,” said Copes. “In markets like the U.S. and Europe, we think we’re ideally suited to bring in new riders to the middleweight segment to people who maybe have never ridden or also bring people back into motorcycling who used to ride or people who have a big, heavy, complex motorcycle and just want something simpler.”

Royal Enfield's growth is in full swing in India, but what about the U.S.? “[Royal Enfield is] really investing on becoming a true global motorcycle company and the U.S. market is a very important market because it’s such an influential motorcycle market,” said Copes. “While it may not be the largest, it’s very influential worldwide.” Royal Enfield North America is in a unique position as Royal Enfield’s first wholly owned subsidiary company outside of India. The leadership in India is betting a lot on the U.S.

Copes touched on a lot of interesting points when talking about what makes the Royal Enfield brand special and what sets it apart from the competition. “We are the only motorcycle company focused solely on the middleweights,” said Copes. “The beauty of our brand is we can compliment everyone else and we can help the entire motorcycle industry bring in new riders and develop the next generation of motorcyclists.”

We spoke a bit about the value proposition offered by Royal Enfield. It’s in a unique spot where it has the spirit of a European brand, but it’s priced like a high-volume Japanese brand. “There’s really not a lot available [in our price range] especially with the quality and the types of motorcycles we provide. We think we’re an incredible value, but we’re also an accessible motorcycle for many potential new customers.”

When talking specifics about how Royal Enfield was going to grow its presence in the U.S., Copes told The Drive about two distinct phases. “Phase one, which we’ve been working on for the last couple years, is really just establishing the processes, the systems, the dealer network. Phase two, which we’re going to kick off in 2018, is really about introducing new motorcycles as well as really establishing the brand from a marketing and social media standpoint.”

In other words, phase one got a lot of the boring administrative stuff out of the way and phase two is when the party really begins. Royal Enfield is hoping that a blend of quality, affordable new motorcycles, and good marketing to boost brand awareness will get American riders excited about the brand. It’s certainly working on us because we can’t wait to throw a leg over the Himalayan, the Continental GT 650, and the Interceptor 650 when they come to the States next year. Here’s hoping it can get the word out enough to make it big in the U.S.