Although you almost never see their bikes in the North American market, Benelli is on fire. The Chinese-owned, Chinese-built company may no longer have the Italian street cred it once did, but it seems buyers don’t care, with 63,000 motorcycles shipped in 2019, says Visordown.
To put it in perspective, that’s more than Ducati sold in 2019, if the numbers we’ve seen are correct, and it’s a sizable increase over the 59,750 motorcycles Benelli sold in 2018. It’s a long way behind the Japanese OEMs, Royal Enfield, KTM or Harley-Davidson, though.
Where’s Benelli’s success coming from? It’s mostly because the company is reaping the benefits of hybridization, with low-priced Asian manufacturing costs combined with reasonably current designs. Everyone’s doing this now (KTM, Triumph, Ducati, even Harley-Davidson), but Benelli was one of the first companies to go down this road, when it was bought out by China’s Qianjiang Group. Now, it’s not only making bikes in China for the Asian market, it even appears to be licencing its designs to Harley-Davidson. If you look at the new Harley-Davidson 350 closely, it looks an awful lot like the Benelli 302 design.
A factory in India helps Benelli sales as well, as it allows it to effectively target high-end sales in that market. That factory opened in the fall of 2018, and despite some weakness in India’s motorcycle sales this year, this gives Benelli a huge advantage over other brands that haven’t yet entered that market (cough cough, Triumph, cough cough). It will debut its new 302 in India soon (it’s already sold elsewhere), and that’s expected to give sales a boost too.
So what does that mean for North America? Sadly, likely very little. The unfortunate reality is that the US and Canada are increasingly being seen as sideshow markets, with real sales coming in from developing countries and the EU, where motorcycling is still seen as legitimate transportation, not a pastime of antisocials and risk-takers. It does have a presence in the US, but Benelli is not likely in any hurry to push hard for motorcycle sales in North America if it decides that market is already shrinking.
Featured image: Benelli