Motorbike made in S'pore hits the roads

Alife Air Automobiles' president and CEO Devan Nair with the A bike, which comes in 125cc and 150cc variants and in four designs. The scooters are designed and assembled in Singapore. Behind Mr Nair is the assembly line in Bukit Batok.
Alife Air Automobiles' president and CEO Devan Nair with the A bike, which comes in 125cc and 150cc variants and in four designs. The scooters are designed and assembled in Singapore. Behind Mr Nair is the assembly line in Bukit Batok.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Alife Air Automobiles' customisable A bike has LTA nod; some units already being used

A home-grown company has launched a made-in-Singapore scooter, the only one in the market now to be assembled here.

The Alife Air Automobiles' A bike, which comes in 125cc and 150cc variants and in four designs, is put together at the company's plant in Bukit Batok Street 23.

It is the first product to roll off the assembly line for the firm, which is the brainchild of entrepreneur Devan Nair, 55.

About 80 per cent of parts are imported from China, Korea and Japan, with the rest sourced from local suppliers. The engine is designed and made in the US.

The scooter was approved for use by the Land Transport Authority earlier this year, said Mr Nair, Alife Air Automobiles' president and group chief executive officer.

He defied naysayers, who questioned the firm's viability in an established industry dominated by the likes of Honda and Yamaha, when he started the business two years ago.

He said such big players satisfy a global market and have "set parameters in their designs". The A bike's design is simple and can be customised to individual needs, he said.

Its biggest customer so far is SH Cycle, which has ordered 200 bikes, which it will, in turn, supply to clients such as Pizza Hut.

The first 20 machines were delivered on Saturday.

SH Cycle director Royston Ho said: "My business associates and staff have test-ridden the bike and find it good and economical."

Mr Nair said that for corporate dealers, which need to regularly service motorcycles they lease to clients, the advantage of buying a locally assembled machine is clear.

"We keep ample stock of parts. They can come to our factory for a one-to-one exchange," he said.

As part of the firm's contribution to SG50, he said the A bike will be sold at a "big discount" of $4,988 - excluding the Certificate of Entitlement - to Singaporeans and permanent residents. The retail price is over $8,000 for other buyers.

The prices may raise an eyebrow or two, said industry observers, considering that an Indonesian- or Chinese-made scooter can cost under $3,000.

Asked about this, Mr Nair said: "We cannot and will not compromise on the quality of parts and safety in our design. So we do not compete as such... Our price is benchmarked against established European and Japanese brands."

There are over 20 orders from the public, and some are already on the road, he added.

Asked if he would buy one, research assistant Larry Liew, 34, said: "The bike seems a little pricey, but it appears to have a fast pick-up speed. I'm not so familiar with US-made engines as Japanese ones are more common, so I'll be eager to see if it is fuel-efficient."

Alife Air Automobiles is the second firm to make motorcycles in Singapore. Tiger Motors, a now-defunct Singapore firm, had set up an assembly plant in Kallang in 2000.

Mr Tony Yeo, president of the Singapore Motor Cycle Trade Association, said it is hard to make and sell bikes in Singapore as labour costs are high and the market is small.

Mr Nair said the A bike is just the start. The firm is now working to get a rotary engine certified in the US. This will be used in motorcycles sold there and in Singapore. This is a departure from the piston design found in nearly all motorcycles.

"The biggest cause of accidents for motorcycles is engine vibration. The higher the engine capacity, the more the vibration. At high speeds, it's a very dangerous element.

"We are designing a rotary engine that can give you zero vibration," said Mr Nair.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline 'Motorbike made in S'pore hits the roads'. Print Edition | Subscribe