Motorbike giant Hero unveils $125 million R&D centre

JAIPUR: Auto giant Hero unveiled a new $125 million design centre in India Thursday, complete with 10 miles (16 kilometres) of test track and giant 3D printers, as it seeks to cement its status as the world’s top-selling motorbike manufacturer.

The opening of the facility on the outskirts of Jaipur comes as part of a rapid expansion by a company that sold more than 6.6 million bikes last year and is just about to start exports to Nigeria.

Chairman Pawan Munjal said Hero was now selling its low-velocity bikes in nearly 30 countries and had set itself a target of 10 million annual sales by the end of the decade, despite a recent tail-off in the Indian market.

“My dream has been to make this company the world’s number one company in the field of two wheelers — not just in numbers, which we are now. The dream is to make the company number one in every sense of the word, in every dimension”, Munjal said at the inauguration in the northern city.

Set on 247 acres (100 hectares) of scrubland, the site features a network of 14 different test tracks stretching for 16 kilometres and includes 45 different types of road surfaces.

The total cost is put at 8.5 billion rupees (around $126 million).

The research centre includes zones for every step of the design process, including workshops where clay models and then prototypes of the bikes are crafted, and laboratories where endurance tests are conducted.

While cameras were barred from the research centre, journalists were shown giant 3D printers which engineers said were among the largest in the world.

Markus Braunsperger, the company’s German chief technology officer who used to work for BMW, said the facility was rare for including such extensive testing facilities on the same site where the bikes are being designed.

He is one of 12 expats among the 500-strong engineering workforce.

Braunsperger said everyone had been hired with an eye on ensuring that their skills could meet world-class standards.