BSA BOUGHT BY INDIAN CORPORATION, MAHINDRA
I've just read a book. Nothing unusual in that, as I hoover up words online and, preferably, in print, like a Dyson on steroids. The book is called Silk Roads. It traces the often violent history of the old trading routes from China, across half the globe, to Europe.
Although written by an Oxford University academic researcher, it is readable, intriguing, and dramatic. The analysis proposes that the influence of trade and developing economy is moving inexorably east. That the accepted norm of a dominant trading and manufacturing west will continue to decline.
My regular internet news feeds on motorcycle-related stories from around the world tend to be dominated by news from India. Aside from the massive domestic market there, BMW, Triumph, Harley, and Honda all have manufacturing interests in the country. KTM is majority owned by Baja Auto, and we mustn't forget the relative success of the Royal Enfield brand.
Mahindra is a huge Indian conglomerate, said to be worth £14.5 billion (it's also the world's largest manufacturer of tractors). Last month, it acquired the historic BSA brand from a small UK engineering company, BSA-Regal Engineering, which is based in Southampton.
Even some of our younger readers will be aware of BSA. Its bikes are often prominent at classic shows in the guise of immaculate Gold Stars and others. BSA stands for Birmingham Small Arms, as it was originally a company formed by a group of Victorian gunsmiths. At its zenith, with a workforce of around 20,000, the company manufactured cycles and taxi cab bodies, as well as owning Daimler. It was said to have produced around 400,000 BSA Bantams, the utility two-stroke motorcycle, between 1948 and the early 70s when the company went bust.
The demise of BSA mirrors that of most British bike manufacturing. But it's worth remembering that, in 1964 and 1965, the company won the world Moto X championship with a bloke called Jeff Smith riding its bikes. He was subsequently awarded an MBE.
Fans of Moto GP will be familiar with the Mahindra name. It runs two bikes in the Moto 3 class and is often scrapping at the front of the field in the frantic bunching and fairing bashing that takes place. In 2014, it acquired a majority stake in Peugeot, the French scooter company. But it has yet to make a breakthrough in the massive lightweight motorcycle market in India, which turns out around 16 million units annually.
The company has acquired all the shares relating to motorcycles, said to have cost £3.4 million: petty cash by its standards. As yet, there's little information as to how Mahindra intends to use the BSA brand name. But it's worth speculating that, having cast an envious eye towards the success of that other former British brand, Royal Enfield, we may see the development of a yet another new range of bikes from the Silk Roads of the East.
24/11/16 - Sad news but fully understand why ;-(
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