Royal Enfield North American HQ
For Royal Enfield, it was the day the company’s North American headquarters and showroom officially opened at 226 N. Water Street in the historic Third Ward of downtown Milwaukee.
With that, the company established its first corporate-level presence in North America, Royal Enfield North America (RENA) and marked the beginning of its strategic expansion here. The plan calls for the office to house operations, marketing, sales, warranty service, dealership development and finance functions for the North American business.
For Milwaukee, it made the city a new center of gravity in the motorcycle industry with the North American home offices of both of the oldest continuously operating motorcycle manufacturers in the world—Royal Enfield, which began motorcycle production in 1901 and Harley-Davidson in 1903. Indeed, the RENA HQ is only a few blocks from the Harley-Davidson Museum.
The showroom at the North Water Street location is not huge by today’s industry standards, but it is well-organized and the Royal Enfield line is well-presented there. During the hours we spent there checking out the latest products and riding gear, it was evident the citizens of Milwaukee were welcoming Royal Enfield to town with open arms.
Traffic to the outdoor display of bikes in the adjacent open lot and into the showroom area was steady and many who showed up took their time, lingering around the bikes and apparel, often trying on both for size.
Rod Copes, President of Royal Enfield North America was on hand along with other corporate and facility staff and we had the chance to sit down to talk with him back in the office area of the facility.
UMC: This event signals a big move for Royal Enfield into the North American market; what, apart from ramping up sales, is the main theme in the strategy?
Rod Copes: “We are emphasizing doing things right versus quick. We have 30 dealers established in North America now and the goal is to have 100 in a year. We’ll have 25 people on staff here in Milwaukee by the end of next year.”
UMC: In the book “Classic Superbikes from Around the World,” the Royal Enfield 700cc Constellation, and Royal Enfield-powered Rickman Enfield Interceptor 750 are both included. Any chance we’ll be seeing the creation of modern-day versions of these?
Rod Copes: “We have recently opened a product development center in the U.K. There are 75 engineers working there and there are a number of exciting things in the product development pipeline. We see the young, urban rider as being someone our current product will connect with. Those riders may be more interested in lighter, more nimble bikes for the urban environment than in bigger, heavier bikes.”
On the topic of performance, the Royal Enfield website reports, “Recently Royal Enfield also acquired UK based Harris Performance, one of the leading experts in designing and manufacturing of specialized high performance motorcycle chassis and components.
Under the terms of the deal, Royal Enfield will acquire all assets, employees, trade names, technical know-how and intellectual property of Harris Performance Products Ltd. All employees of Harris Performance will become part of Royal Enfield’s UK Tech Centre. These technology centers will significantly enhance Royal Enfield’s capability to execute its long term product strategy.” That news suggests the company isn’t going to be satisfied with its own product status quo.
UMC: You worked for Harley-Davidson for nearly 20 years, building that brand around the world. How does that translate for your work with Royal Enfield?
Rod Copes: “We’ll be working to raise brand identity. With more dealers and participation in events, the product will be more visible. For example, we’ve hired an event coordinator to position the product for exposure to both potential new and current riders.”
Royal Enfield has been very successful in its home country India, across Asia and in Europe with its present products. And, in addition to making a move to increase sales in the North American market, the company has also been working to do the same in the UK. In 2014, Royal Enfield opened its first exclusive store in London.
To herald the event, it recreated the historic Top to Tip ride in UK on its Continental GT motorcycles. Royal Enfield also participated in classic motor sports events including the Isle of Man Classic TT in August and Goodwood Revival festival in September, where the company previewed its dispatch rider inspired gear collection.
Royal Enfield says it is the oldest motorcycle company in continuous production, having built its first motorcycle in 1901, with its origins in the UK. While the company remained in operation, there was a break from motorcycle production from 1904 to 1911. Today, it is a division of Eicher Motors Ltd. Royal Enfield has its manufacturing base in Chennai, India, and says it has achieved 50 percent growth in sales every year for the last five years.