ADVMoto Interview with Rod Copes, North America Distributor for Royal Enfield
Times are changing for the adventure market, and with the recent introduction of more small displacement dual-sport/ADV options, we can only assume the best is yet to come. Although Royal Enfield isn’t currently among the most popular brands in America, they hope to change that with the announcement of several new bikes, including the highly anticipated, single cylinder Himalayan. To get a better understanding of Royal Enfield’s plans for the US, we chit-chat with Rod Copes who oversees RE distribution for North America.
ADVMoto: Tell us a bit about your motorcycling background and how you came to work with Royal Enfield.
Rod Copes: Much of my background is actually with Harley-Davidson, who I worked with for almost 20 years. While introducing HD to India in 2008-2009, I learned about Royal Enfield and fell in love with the brand, eventually even buying a Royal Enfield motorcycle for my personal use.
During this time, I met several employees from Royal Enfield in India, including Siddhartha Lal, the CEO. I left Harley-Davidson in late 2012. When Royal Enfield decided to expand their global presence, I reconnected with Siddhartha and was offered the opportunity to lead the North America region for Royal Enfield.
AM: What do you think are some of the most attractive selling points of the new Himalayan compared to other cost competitive models like the Kawasaki Versys 300 or BMW 310 GS?
RC: It is always difficult to compare motorcycles, but I believe the Himalayan motorcycle offers a fun, accessible and affordable option into the adventure touring category of motorcycles. It is versatile, yet balanced and enjoyable for both seasoned riders and new riders alike.
AM: RE really seemed to be pushing new products and tech development over the past few years. Where did this push on innovation and investment come from?
RC: Siddhartha has been leading Royal Enfield since the late 1990's. When he first took over the reins, the company was only selling about 30,000 motorcycles annually and was not profitable. Much of the success came from his vision for the company and he very deliberately and carefully led the company through an amazing turn around.
This year the company will sell over 800,000 motorcycles. As the company has grown and become profitable, Siddhartha has invested in strategic capabilities for the future.
AM: Who are some of the key players in developing RE new vision?
RC: Siddartha is intimately involved in the current day-to-day operations and the future vision of Royal Enfield. Notably, Royal Enfield opened a Tech Centre in the UK last year, which is monumental to progressing the company forward in its vision. The Tech Centre has more than 100 employees in the UK that are dedicated to designing and developing new motorcycles.
The industrial design and product strategy team is led by Mark Wells. Simon Warburton and his team oversee product development in both the UK and India. They work collectively with Siddartha to develop the vision for Royal Enfield,and to make it a reality. A second Tech Center is currently under construction in India.
AM: Where do you see RE in North America 10 years from now?
RC: Royal Enfield is positioned to be the leader in the global middle-weight motorcycle segment. The global team is executing a 5-year new motorcycle plan that will result in several new motorcycle platforms and many new motorcycle models. From a North America standpoint – we want to be the first brand to come to mind for fun, economical bikes for new or experienced riders.
AM: Although Royal Enfield is has a long legacy, it's fairly new to North America. A common concern about new brands is having good support in terms of parts availability, service manuals, accessories, dealer networks, etc. How is Royal Enfield handling this in North America?
RC: We began our recent journey over 3 years ago, focusing initially on building the infrastructure for Royal Enfield in North America. This includes the processes/systems, capabilities, building the dealer network and opening a Pre-Delivery Inspection Center (PDI Center) to ensure high quality motorcycles are delivered to our dealers and customers. We also have a warehouse in Texas that is constantly stocked with an ample supply of parts.
Royal Enfield offers year-round training to all RE dealers to ensure they are equipped to offer support and service for customers when needed. We understand that consumers want to have accessible service and accessories and we firmly believe the purchase of a motorcycle is just the beginning of our relationship. It is our desire to be the leader in the middleweight motorcycle segment, but more importantly to be known for an incredible customer experience and satisfaction.
AM: Do you think the RE 650 parallel twin will be put into the Himalayan (or similar) platform?
RC: I am unable to comment on potential new models and products for Royal Enfield, but I can say I am quite excited about the many new motorcycles that will be introduced over the next three to five years. We are the only motorcycle company that is solely focused on middle-weight motorcycles, and I am confident we are well on our way to becoming the global leader in this segment. The introduction of the Himalayan to the North American market, as well as the global debut of the twin models is just the beginning for Royal Enfield.