In the year 2005, at a time when motorcycle sales in India were confined to commuter bikes with tepid power and lackluster styling, it took TVS Motor Company, often considered a conservative two-wheeler manufacturer based in South India to raise the bar in performance and styling. The birth of the TVS Apache 150 was the cornerstone in the company’s journey in premium motorcycles with a racing DNA.
“We started in 2005 because the Indian infrastructure was improving, the need for higher power vehicle to commute, to travel from one point to another, or occasionally go for a long ride was increasing. We wanted to do something very significant which will meet the customer requirement. We wanted to offer something where the customer would have his own identity. This was the purpose with which we started this journey. Thus the first 150cc Apache was born,” recalls Meghashyam Dighole, Head, (Marketing) Premium Motorcycles, TVS Motor Company.
TVS RACING DNA & THE BIRTH OF APACHE SERIES
From the design and performance of TVS Apache motorcycles it is quite evident that racing has always been an integral part of the TVS Motor Company DNA. Much before the idea of an Apache series was even conceived, TVS Motor Company was setting the Sholavaram race track on the outskirts of Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu afire with its two-seater mopeds. In the early 1980s, the TVS Racing team participated in their initial races astride the TVS 50 which dominated the racetrack at Sholavaram.
It took the company another 20 years to realise its dream of launching a premium motorcycle that could whet the appetite of a growing breed of young motorcycle riders in India who were looking for products that were stylish, responsive, youthful and affordable.
Thus, in order to enter the premium motorcycle segment with a new Apache performance motorcycle, the company went about doing its homework thoroughly. “A set of people was assigned the task to create something very special, a high-performance machine that would meet customer demand. A special team was made at that time. With that we started our journey. We talked to customers in various cities of the country. We travelled pan India, we asked people what they expect from a performance motorcycle, what do they identify with, what are their aspirations, which bike do they look up to, what do they want in a new bike, etc. These types of questions are valid even today. The Apache brand is doing this exercise every year and that is why we are always ahead of our competition on several fronts”, says Dighole.
He points out that even the top management of the company was excited about the company’s entry into a premium business. “There was definitely a very high interest among them because it not only helps the top line but also the bottom line and the brand image of the company,” he notes.
Within a year of the launch of the first Apache series, the TVS Apache 150, the company launched the TVS Apache RTR series with TVS Apache RTR 160. The RTR or Race Throttle Response series today comprises of the TVS Apache RTR 160, TVS Apache RTR 180, TVS Apache RTR 160 4V and TVS Apache RTR 200 4V. These motorcycles fall under the ‘Naked motorcycles’ category.
Thus, the TVS Apache series was literally born on the race track, incorporating learnings from TVS Racing – the factory racing team of TVS Motor Company, with a history of 38 years in motorsports. The brand which started rolling out from TVS Mysore plant in 2005 with Apache 150, has expanded to 2 Series (RTR –Race Throttle Response and RR- Race Replica) and five variants.
Dighole of TVS considers the company’s move to introduce the TVS Apache RTR 160, as a smart one. “That was a very smart move from our team to go into 160cc where we could go for a very specific performance ratio with bore to stroke. We also wanted to offer a performance that would be unmatched by competition. Competition was around 150cc at that time. We first increased the capacity of the engine, and we also increased our performance i.e. specific power per litre. That’s how we created a very powerful vehicle in that segment. And that is how it became an instant success,” he states.
He emphasises that the journey from Apache basic to Apache RTR was quite significant. “That is where our complete racing experience came into picture. The changes we did with the RTR include clip on handle bar, aggressive ergonomics, aggressive stance of the rider, the type of foot peg we selected, etc were all about racing. We made the vehicle lighter and faster, besides making it sharp and agile. We did a lot of work on suspension and handling, from our journey from Apache to Apache RTR. It was used by our race riders on the race track and for all who wanted to race,” he says emphatically.
Much later in 2017, on the SuperSport front, the brand introduced TVS Apache RR 310 as their first entrant into the RR (Race Replica) category. With this launch, the Apache series from TVS had established itself as an aspirational brand for a generation of young motorcycle enthusiasts in the country who were not ready to compromise on performance and style. All the racing in the early 1980s had finally borne fruit for the company in the form of the Apache series.
“RR, I would say, came much later in the Apache life cycle. RR we started around 2013-14 when we had an agreement with BMW for manufacturing motorcycles for them. At that time there was no clear performance race replica in the country. We thought that was a very good opportunity to give a true performance bike. That’s where the journey for RR started. As for moving to 310 from 200, we wanted to take a big jump with what our collaboration partner wanted to do. It was a combination of what our collaborator wanted to do and what the collaboration wanted. We wanted to take a significant jump,” Dighole reiterates.
The TVS Apache RR 310, in fact, first took shape as a prototype model called the TVS Akula under the common platform with BMW, which was showcased at the 2016 Auto Expo. Even though both the companies used the same platform, each one had their own approach to design and develop the products in line with the focused strategy and targeted markets.
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