NEW DELHI: Scooters now account for one third of sales of two-wheeled vehicles in India, and half in the big metros, thanks to a combination of technical developments, changing buyer demographics and improved infrastructure.

The Honda Activa model was the country's top seller in the 2016-17 financial year, selling more than four times (2.8m) as many as its nearest rival in the scooter market and, for the first time, selling more than the long-time leader in the motorbike market, the Hero Spendor.

Consumers have tended to prefer motorbikes, whether for reasons of safety – they are better suited to negotiating potholed roads than scooters – or fuel economy, but views are changing and scooter sales growth was running at three times that of motorbikes last year.

There are several reasons for this, including the introduction of automatic transmission in scooters, increasing urbanisation, better roads and a growing number of women consumers, according to the Economic Times.

"The positioning of scooters as gender-neutral vehicles and increasing traffic congestion would help boost scooter sales, especially because of the convenience it offers as an intra-city vehicle," said Aswin Kumar, programme manager for automotive and transportation at researchers Frost & Sullivan.

Already one in every two two-wheelers sold in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai is a scooter, with cities such as Pune, Ahmedabad and Lucknow reporting similar figures.

And the process of "scooterisation" is extending beyond cities into rural areas, where penetration "is going up significantly year on year", reported YS Guleria, senior V-P (sales and marketing) at Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India

As the government invests more in roadbuilding and lays plans for 100 smart cities, the trend is set to continue.

"The versatility of a scooter is the driving force behind its surge in sales," declared Aniruddha Haldar, VP-marketing (scooters) at TVS, which makes the second placed Jupiter brand, as he identified how "maneuverability, riding comfort, practicality, convenience and fuel economy have made the scooter a great package".

Data sourced from Economic Times, Autocar Professional; additional content by WARC staff