From left to right: Wee Hong – president of Malaysian Motorcycle and Scooter Distribution Association, Datuk Abdul Harith Abdullah, Amirudin Abd Kadir – chief executive officer, Modenas.

When Malaysian motorcycle manufacturer Modenas came on the scene just over 20 years ago, aspirations were riding high that it would emulate the success of the national car industry then. Catering to the lower range of the motorcycling public, notably with low-cost, value-for-money scooters and kapchais, Modenas did, at one point, corner some 40% of the local bike market.

During the launch of the 2017 Modenas Kriss MR2 – the third Modenas model to be launched since the Modenas Karisma 125 and Elegan 250 last year – Datuk Abdul Harith Abdullah, chief operating officer of DRB-Hicom’s automotive engineering and manufacturing and distribution divisions, said the company is intent on regaining lost market share, slowly but surely. Plans for this include offering the customer something different and better, as well as collaborating with a strategic partner to defray development costs for new products.

“First of all, in this lower-end of the motorcycle market, what are we (Modenas) doing that is different? We have to offer the customer something more, that sets us apart from the others,” he said. “We are also looking at a strategic partner going forward,” he added.

And who might this strategic partner be? From China, there is a plethora of manufacturers that could fit the bill, as evidenced by the use of Zong Shen’s ZS110 for the Kriss MR2. However, a little bird whispered in our ear that Modenas’ partner will likely be Bajaj Auto of India, the world’s sixth-largest manufacturer of motorcycles and the second-largest in India, with a market capitalisation of USD 9.5 billion.

Tying up with a development partner is not a new thing for local industry, of course, as has been shown by Proton and its ringaroundtheroses with various strategic partners and foreign buy-ins. In the case of Modenas, while re-branding and re-badging might be a quick way back into the market, a proper locally developed engine and chassis is perhaps the best way to raise local standards.