Much before the Pulsar 220 came with the ‘Fastest Indian’ tag, it was the second generation Pulsar 180 (UG1, the first one with DTSi tech) that showed its taillight to the then-Hero Honda Karizma in both acceleration and top speed. While I don’t remember the sprint figures, the true maximum speeds of both these motorcycles just won’t fade away from my memory – the Karizma topped out at 124.5 km/h while the Pulsar went on till 128.9 km/h!


Check the brand’s history on its official portal and you’ll notice the description under the year 2003 includes a line that says “this was the first time a bike ad showed the bike with one wheel off the ground.” A couple of lines above it you’ll also see a sentence that includes the following phrase: “outselling competition sports bikes by more than three times…” Does it still hold true? Find out….


Of course, the Karizma was a superior product any day and some of its qualities are still yet to be matched by the Pulsars. Any Pulsar, for that matter… So, both the bikes sold well and though Bajaj always managed to sell more units of the 180, the Karizma was also meeting its maker’s expectations.


But while Hero Honda could only add an ‘R’ suffix to the Karizma without making any changes to the mechanicals, Bajaj on the other hand continued the offensive by not only upgrading the Pulsar 180, but by also bringing in the 200 and later on, the 220. Oh yes, the Avenger also continually received the biggest engine from the Pulsar range.


The Karizma, despite its virtues and fan following, continued to lose its charisma and the ZMR, introduced in 2009, also could not do much. When Hero MotoCorp showcased the ‘new’ Karizmas last year, bike enthusiasts, auto-journalists, and even the casual Harry – all unanimously echoed UGLY! And the sales numbers don’t present a different story either. According to the official sales data we have, in October 2013, Hero sold 4,922 units of the Karizmas (R and ZMR) but managed to sell only 3,172 units of the beasts (pun intended) last month (Oct 14).


Mind you, the P220 is not a beauty queen either, but Bajaj has been careful enough to not play with a design that still sells well after so many years. And the Avenger looks as gorgeous today as the Kawasaki Eliminator did way back in 2001 – nothing came close to the bike’s form (and function) back then, and nothing does so even now.

Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that Bajaj sold 12,803 Pulsar and Avenger 220s in October 2013, and 14,456 last month. And in the current financial year until now, April 2014-October 2014 i.e., Bajaj has sold 74,781 Pulsar and Avenger 220s and Hero MotorCorp could only manage 22,414 Karizmas, and even that number has more last gen Karizmas than the new ones.


Now, I could conclude that Hero does not really care about the Karizmas’ sales as the company continues to do phenomenally well in the commuter segment: it sold 4,28,363 units in the entry-level motorcycle segment (up to 110 cc) where Bajaj, at the second spot, managed 91,599 motorcycles. But if that was true Hero wouldn’t have touched the Karizmas. It did, however, while doing so, if it had ran out of ideas, or its design team members were having a bad day, it could have just let the design be! The money saved on that hideous design could have been better used in marketing the ‘improved Karizmas’…


It saddens us to see an otherwise potent motorcycle doing bad in sales mostly due it its looks and also because of the laid back attitude of the company in properly promoting the new motorcycle. No, that nonsensical TV commercial won’t help. So, while the effects of the unwanted plastic surgery perhaps cannot be reversed in this case, we just hope that Hero at least engages the Karizmas’ target audience in a better manner!

Related: Bajaj to Launch 3 New Pulsars as Competition Heats Up!

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  1. On the looks front, the new Karizma R/ZMR look better in flesh than in pictures and have good road presence. However, the main grouse is that despite the 2-odd bhp bump in power, the new Karizma doesn’t feel any faster than the older model, nor does it get any boost in top speed. Even if one wishes to tweak the ZMR’s ECU for an aftermarket map, there is no option available. But one aspect no Pulsar can match is the Karizma’s comfort, suspension is simply the best in business for bad roads and stress-free touring. Also the new Karizma is very spacious for both rider and pillion.

    • Exactly Reeto! That is why I have mentioned that the Karizma still cannot be matched by any Pulsar in some aspects! Yes, it looks better in flesh but nowadays the pictures on the internet heavily influence the prospective buyer’s mind about the showrooms he needs to visit! Heavy customer-engagement will help…

      • Yes I agree with you, more customer engagement and a more realistic advertisement will help the ZMR. The Karizma twins are known for their touring capability, Hero needs to focus on that aspect. For example, a small initiative like adding a mobile charging 12V socket would have made a difference.

      • Also Hero could have easily upgraded the headlights on the new Karizma, this is a major omission for a tourer. Slightly boosting top end power of the bike would have also helped in maintaining better cruising speeds

  2. Actually there are far better reasons to be conservative on the Karizma. Way back in the early last decade karizma’s 220cc Honda engine was capable of pumping 22 Bhp but was restricted to 17Bhp just for fuel efficiency and over all reliability. Still Hero doesn’t have complete faith over the Honda’s engine as well as it’s highly outdated to be worked upon. Better wait till HX arrives and see how it’s going to grab the 1-2 Lac market by storm.

    • Well, no. The Karizma’s engine was only detuned for fuel-efficiency, and not because of reliability. The engine was lifted from the CRF 230 – a ‘production’ motorcross bike! So, there is no question about the engine’s reliability. It’s just that Hero unnecessarily played with the design, and with disastrous results. The old exterior design with the current ones’ improved fuel-injected engines would have garnered much better sales! The HX250R and the Hastur (in different segments, of course) look very promising indeed!

      • A pair of Pirelli tyres cost Rs 10000. The Euro grip tyres which 200ss is going to sport is priced mere 1600 Rs. Tellis Frame required more man and machine power to manufacture than a perimeter frame.

    • You cannot expect too cheap price for what it offers. Trellis frame, Pirelli super grippy rubber, 31 bhp of short stroke free revving power, 26 nm of linear torque with a full faired sport bike design is not going come cheap. Even the Duke 200 costs 1.5 Lakhs. Only the 200ns and the Duke 390 can come close to it in terms of value.

  3. The frontal look of new karizmas is a big letdown. Hero should keep the rear design intact and chalk out new front design. Pulsar 220 has good sales obviously because it is a serious touring motorcycle till date. You can ride hundreds of kilometers at highway speeds and features like 55W projector headlamps, auto choke, etc are of immense use. Till 120 Kmph, the fairing does a good job and you feel like driving in a car.


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