Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 could be delayed as factory struggles to meet demand for the Classic range
When it showcased its latest product yet, the 2012 Thunderbird 500, at the 2012 Indian Auto Expo, there were more than a few current and prospective Royal Enfield owners smitten by the motorcycle. The Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500, which features a range of improvements to make it an ideal touring motorcycle was scheduled to be launched in the middle of 2012. We’re entering the fourth quarter of the year in a few days from now and the Thunderbird 500 is yet to see the light of the day.
If you’re wondering what’s stopping Royal Enfield from launching the Thunderbird 500, a motorcycle that seems production ready given the uncamouflaged test mules doing the rounds in and around Chennai, here’s the reason for the delay. Royal Enfield is struggling to match the immense demand that the Classic range of motorcycles has created for the brand, so much so that the waiting periods for the Classic 350 and Thunderbird 350 stretch to over 6 months in many parts of India.
The long waiting period amidst sales that is continuing its march towards the stratosphere means that Royal Enfield is delaying the launch of the Thunderbird 500 in order to meet the current demand. The unit construction engine, has been at the center of Royal Enfield’s revival, from being an ailing motorcycle maker almost on the verge of folding up a decade and a half ago, to a motorcycle maker simply not able to meet the huge demand for its retro styled motorcycles.
The retro motorcycle maker clearly seems in no mood to bite off more than it can chew with the launch of the Thunderbird 500 expected to create further demand and stretch the already stretched factory at Tiruvottiyur, Chennai. While a spanking new facility is expected to be operational by the middle of next year at Oragadam, a factory which will be capable of producing 150,000 motorcycles a year, the current factory, which is straight from British Raj days in terms of the tooling, will have but no option to meet the demand until the new factory goes on stream.
While poor assembly is often the result of such a stretched production facility, the new factory is expected to raise quality levels many fold as Royal Enfield CEO Mr Venki Padmanabhan is said to be taking personal interest in setting up the plant with state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and tooling. All in all, Royal Enfield enthusiasts would be hoping that the new factory would do two things for them, One: Improve quality levels; Two: Reduce waiting periods.