Why UM shut down?

The past few years saw a couple of new automotive companies spring up, each wanting to create a share in the vast India market. Some of them made a mark initially, but then disappeared without a trace, leaving their customers and dealers in a lurch. One such company was UM, also known as United Motors and going by the acronym UML, standing of United Motors Lohia – an alliance between the so called American company (also they were more Chinese than American) and Indian company Lohia auto, the latter known for making electric vehicles like autos, scooters etc.

UM initially came up with two products – the Renegade Commando and the Renegade Sport. There is no doubt the motorcycles had road presence and grabbed eye balls and if I may say, even left some 500 cc machines as a spec of dust in rear view mirror. However, these two factors weren’t enough for the products or the company to succeed. Teething issues with the quality of the bikes, lack of quality service centres in spite of having almost 60 dealers across the country, still didn’t do the brand any good. The transition from BSIII to BS-IV hit the brand hard with them being unable to upgrade their products with the Government deadline. Furthermore, the haste led the brand to introduce a sub-standard product that led to the bike having more downtime than be on the road, clearly to the dismay of customers.

From my interactions with the UM management early since the inception of the brand, the one thing I was well aware of was the fact that the R&D at UM was never that strong. They were highly dependent on their China counterparts for Quality checks as well; the assembly unit at the Lohia Kashipur plant was just a single line Vs as one would imagine a motorcycle assembly plant. Without a strong R&D team and lack of proper product testing, the motorcycles really didn’t have a strong future. Well, at least not in the long run.

Another blow came to the brand when they failed to launch an ABS version of their Commando Classic during the 2018 Auto Expo. With competition acing up offering features and tech at affordable rice, UM was pricier than its competitors while being plan Jane. While all these issues were factual, no partnership can thrive if the stakeholders don’t see eye to eye and moreover don’t have the same vision and goal to believe in. That is where UM as a brand suffered the most. Products were introduced more on a hunch Vs thorough market research, again which were not backed strongly by the technical department.

This may sound like a rant, but the number of dismayed customers who still seek support or the employees who staged a protest at the 2020 Auto Expo, for the company has shut its doors on them unannounced affecting their livelihood made me wonder, what happened to the brand within just 5 years of starting up? And then I remembered a popular entrepreneurial quote – most start-ups shut down within a year, well, UM at least made it till five!

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