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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Royal Enfield->Enfield->Royal Enfield in India?

It is well known that Enfield India was selling bikes labeled "Enfield" (without "Royal") in the 1970's, 80's and 90's. In 1994 Enfield India acquired the right to the name "Royal Enfield" in the UK through a court dispute with Mr. Holder, owner of Aerco Jig and Tool of Birmingham. Beginning in 2000 export models started being labeled "Royal Enfield", at least for certain markets (I own a 2000 Royal Enfield). It appears in 2003 domestic bikes started being labeled "Royal Enfield" as well. Royal Enfield motorcycles have been sold in India for many years. The earliest record I could find was in the 1913 Indian TT in Calcutta. Madras Motors started systematically importing Royal Enfield motorcycles from the UK in the 1940's. Those bikes were obviously labeled "Royal Enfield".
The question is then: when did the transition from "Royal Enfield" to "Enfield" occur? David Blasco found a picture, allegedly from the mid 1960's, of the factory in Tiruvottiyur with bikes labeled "Royal Enfield". I have found pictures of pre 1990's bikes on the internet also labeled "Royal Enfield". In Gordon May's book "Made in India" there are also pictures from the 1960's of bikes labeled Royal Enfield (the picture of Nehru above is one of them).
So my best guess at the moment is that the "Royal" was dropped when the UK company went bust. At that time Royal Enfield UK was broken into pieces and sold by the E. H. Smith group. Norton Villiers Triumph (NVT) had acquired the twin operations in Westwood and its parent company, Bronze Manganese, had a stake in Enfield India whereas Velocette had acquired the parts division. When Royal Enfield stopped motorcycle production in 1970 and later Velocette closed in 1971 the name Royal Enfield passed to Aerco Tools, the company of Matt Holder. I guess at that time Enfield India felt it did not have the right to use Royal Enfield anymore? Was that the reason that the name could only be used after litigation in the UK? But aren't brands in the UK and India independent anyway? Or is there some quirk due to the Commonwealth? Does anyone know the precise story?

4 comments:

  1. I have begun to suspect that the answer is the simplest possible of the several you suggest: Probably Royal Enfields were always Royal Enfields in India. Only when modern exports began in earnest was there concern about rights to the name in the U.S. and U.K. So those bikes (export only) were just Enfields. Once the question of rights was settled, as you detail, the full name returned to the tank sides for all markets. Almost anyone on the ground in India could answer this for us!

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  2. The 'Royal' name was acquired by the Eicher group which now owns and manages the Enfield manufacturing in India.The Royal Enfields' that you refer to and we see in India were the imported models and as you see in the picture with Nehru, the company always manufactured and marketed the motorcyles as Enfield India. And there were many other models apart from the 350 bullet that Enfield India(EI) would manufacture viz the Diesel enfields, the Sherpa,Crusader(Villiers engine),Mini bullet,Enfield Fury(Zundapp KS175) to name a few.The company strategy has now changed to align with newer markets and marketing strategy with complete brand reinvention and the old cast iron engine has been stopped completely with the newer AVL engines,a left sided gear shifter etc..The only similarity to the older machine that the newer machines share is the Brand name...

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  3. Not quite so. The latest Models have the same frame, tank, and a lot of cycle parts from the 1955 Bullet

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  4. Not quite so. The latest models have the same frame, tank and a lot of cycle parts from the 1955 Bullet.

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