If you think emission regulations in the United States or Europe are onerous, then you should see the hash of things that is being played out in India right now, as hundreds of thousands of vehicles have been sitting on showroom floors, flirting with disaster at the possibility of being declared unsellable in the country.

The exact figure varies from which source you believe (and their understanding that “lakh” means 100,000 in Indian parlance), so the affected number of vehicles ranges from 700,000 to 1.4 million units – most of which are trucks and two-wheelers.

As such, just days before the deadline 600,000 motorcycles soon-to-be non-compliant motorcycles were believed to be still unsold, the result of an interesting intersection of a rapidly changing environmental landscape, an unforgiving legal system, and a slowly reacting vehicle industry.

The issue comes as India has just hit its stead-fast transition date from Bharat Stage 3 emission standards (BS-III) to Bharat Stage 4 emission standards (BS-IV).

Based off their European counterpart, the move in Bharat Stage emissions is very similar to the jump the motorcycle industry just saw when it moved from Euro3 emissions to Euro4, and unsurprisingly the more stringent regulations have created more regulatory hoops for manufacturers to jump through.

Whereas Europe has made the transition Euro3 to Euro4 fairly gracefully, with some exemptions and grace periods, India’s movement towards cleaner air has been more abrupt, thanks in part to a hard-line stance by the country’s Supreme Court, and the wording of the law which focuses on vehicle sell dates, and not vehicle production dates

Wherever you want to lay the blame, the end result is that a massive amount of cars, trucks, three-wheelers, and motorcycles were almost unsellable in this heavily populated and rapidly developing country – to the tune of up to 1.4 million units

Vehicle manufacturers and dealers say the fault is with the legislative government, which gave the automotive sector less time than its European counterparts to make the necessary changes to their vehicle emissions – roughly 5.5 years instead of the nearly 10 years given in Europe. 

Similarly the legal system has been blamed, as the courts have not eased-in the implementation of BS-IV regulations. Compounding things further is that the situation will likely only get worse, so the manufacturers say, as India is set to skip BS-V completely, and enforce BS-VI by the year 2020.

Still, a hefty amount of blame resides with the vehicle manufacturers and dealers themselves, as the roadmap for India’s emissions standards has been clear from their very inception, despite the popular opinion that the government wouldn’t adhere to its own timeline – foolish bet, from our perspective.

A lack of preparedness from the automotive manufacturers in India is certainly a charge that can be levied fairly, and only in the recent months have brands come to the realization that they would need to make steep discounts on the BS III units that remained still on showroom floors, before the BS IV date approached (March 31, 2017).

Clearly, these companies over-produced their BS-III vehicles and dealers struggled to unload them before the end of last month. It is estimated that now after the switch to BS-IV 60,000 motorcycles remain on dealership floors, unable to be sold legally in India.

Presumably some of these models can be retrofitted to be BS-IV compliant, if that’s even financially possible, but the exact toll of this poorly executed handoff hasn’t been completely tallied just yet, and it remains to be seen how many of the 1.4 million vehicles were sold in the rush up to the end of March deadline.

Early reports show a massive buying spree from consumers, with discounts of 60% said to be the norm. However, some reports from India still peg the unsold inventory figure at roughly 1.2 million units, though we should add that there has been great disparity in reports out of India on this subject.

The truth of the matter is likely that no one knows for certain how many machines were sold in the final days of March, but one thing is for certain is that the fiasco will cost brands millions of rupees.

The question now remains whether vehicle brands will move on from this hard-learned lesson, or if they will continue to be unprepared for the coming BS-VI standard in 2020. Only time will tell.

Source: Hindu Business Line, India Times, New India Express, & Economic Times  via MotoFire

  • Adam Creer

    Sounds like a bunch of new vehicles will be headed towards Southeast Asia very soon…

  • pidgin

    US needs to adopt equal regulations aswell ASAP, so japs have to stop selling their dinosaur polluters and make new ones or gtfo.

  • yyzmxs

    Really??? Out of touch a bit? I would think so.

  • mikstr

    Broken Record Syndrome…

    do tell, if the “japs” are dirty, who is clean?

  • pidgin

    All bikes that are sold in europe. And soon India it seems.

    The anxient KLR/DR/XR and many more models aren’t being sold here for forever already.

    US holding the world back from us getting better bikes.

  • coreyvwc

    New US emissions regulations will not force the Japanese manufacturers to update their range of products. They will simply add on more emissions components that will further restrict the power and increase the weight of their motorcycles. Those companies are completely controlled by the bean counters, they have no idea what the customer wants nor do they care.

  • pidgin

    LOL. Wrong. Then why don’t they add “more emissions components” to those same bikes in europe and sell them?

    For example honda had to update their crf250L this year to meet euro4. We got an increase in power aswell. Had there been no regulations honda would have sold the original for another 10 years.

  • Brett Lewis

    More Japanese bikes are sold in Europe than the US. Japan acts accordingly, catering to Europe before the US. There is no law against Japan selling Euro4 bikes here as that spec is even stricter than what we have. The mean old US can’t be blamed for all of your issues.

  • pidgin

    Umm thats what I’ve been saying. They continue to sell their old bikes in the US that can’t be sold here in europe. If they couldn’t sell them in US they’d finally be forced to update or retire those models.

  • paulus

    I agree with your sentiments, but don’t blame the Japanese. They are developing and selling the models elsewhere. It is the USA headquarters decision makers which select the models for release there.

  • Brett Lewis

    Nobody over here is buying old bikes, every dealer has far more 2015’s and 2016’s than new bikes. The US is not a big factor in total motorcycle purchases globally, with half of the sales here going to American companies.Europe not only gets the new bikes before us, they get a lot of bikes that we don’t… Where’s our CB1300? (never sold here), Tracer 700? (been out for 2 years in Europe), XT660Z Tenere? (people over here really wanted it, can’t get it, Europe did), the list goes on and on… Europe gets newer bikes first, and they get a better selection from which to choose.

  • Brett Lewis

    But… I reread your post, focusing on the dual sports, I see that there are only a couple for sale in Europe, while even carbureted models like the DRZ400S are still for sale here. People here are tiring of the old models, we have wanted a new updated/fuel injected DRZ for ages, same with the KLR 650 and others. Even though I myself had a couple of DRZ’s, they are not that popular, and it’s easy to find a lightly used one at a low price. I see Europe still gets the CRF250, I’m surprised you can’t get the fuel-injected WR250R, the Versys X 300 seems very road-biased. I imagine the manufacturers are working on dual sports now for Europe…