Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Vast Opportunity for Motorcycle Industry to Come Up With Something Completely New

    the global motorcycle industry...[had] a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0 % between 2006 and 2010.

    increasing market consumption... Market performance is projected to increase in 2010-2015 with a CAGR of 6% [by] 2015.*
As we slowly and hopefully emerge from a period where there was zero growth, stagnating design (quiz: when did the CBR600RR actually look different than it does today?), but still longing looks at cycletrader for bankruptcy sales in distant states, the motorcycle industry has an enormous opportunity to remake the environment in its own image (if it has the vision and desire to do so). 

During the gloom of the past few years, there has been much written about the future.  Speaking for myself, I’m a future hater.  As a librarian, for about ten years there, you could get a grant or be published if your project/article had future in the title.  The worst was a presentation on said future in 2010 and the egregious presenters had a citation list a mile long on how hellish life would be in the future for the unprepared –all references from 1999 or earlier.  The motorcycle industry had similar awkward changes with the death of the old AMA Superbike model, MotoGP lamented the loss of two strokes and now the shift from prototypes to CRT’s.  A highlight is the TT Zero which seems to grasp at the old days of innocence and wonder in racing; I watched the Motocycyz (did I spell that right, because I sure ain’t pronouncing it) at Laguna last year and the race was quite a spectacle –but I digress.  Bike Magazine (UK) did a depressing issue last year about the last (Imperial) gallon of fuel and what you would do with it.  Is it all downhill from here?  And as Lycra-Dude (complete with carbon fiber bike at his side) cuts in front of me in line at the local shop, I sigh to myself, “is this really where we’re headed?”
On the product line, in attempting to divine the future, Ducati has taken an interesting tack upmarket with the fabulous, but rather expensive Panigale, while MV Agusta has taken a page from the book of Ducati’s past and made an accessibly priced, but still sexy, F3.  Which way boys?  Honda, at least in Europe, is coming out with a new body for the old VFR engine every six months (CrossRunner/Tour) a pretty cool CBR250, and a mysteriously different engined NC700s.   Those are the future bikes, but in the recent past, the 600 supersport era was, I’m guessing, a once in a lifetime moment where the bikes were constantly making dramatic improvements and were very desirable, accessible and popular unto themselves.  Is the future of motorcycling to be hung on a make-or-break model?  I don’t think so.

Apart from the models themselves, the media and marketing has changed, maybe dramatically, since we last saw a strong economy.  Most importantly, in my mind, is the undermining of traditional media (television (even cable), print magazines) and the rise of new global media that is a la cart ( streaming race broadcasts) or even free ( shows whole races a few days after they’ve run on YouTube).  If I could download a WSBK race or MotoGP race the day after it had broadcast to watch it on my kindle fire, I’d be happy to pay a buck or two for the privilege –but more importantly, I’d be very pleased to see advertising on it as well.  It may spell the death of local adverts, but I do want to support the industry.  How many iPads, Microsoft and Google Tablets will it take before this happens anyway?  Totally crazy idea, but make the local official Honda dealer be the wireless download location for MotoGP races.  I’m already visiting the shop a few times a year anyway, why not give us an excuse to go more often?  Harley-Davidson has had success with this in the not too distant past with their ‘lifestyle marketing’.  People go in there just to visit and they end up buying official tooth brushes and toasters that make a ‘screamin’ eagle’ noise when the toast pops up.  Ok, I made that up, but did you know that KTM has a toaster? ( )  I’d buy a Ducati toaster, give me the excuse to go to the shop!
These nice folks like to watch races and buy motorcycle crap that proves it and then talk about it together -help us do this! (Corkscrew viewers at the 2007 MotoGP event)

I guess my point, after all, is that motorcycles are fun, but they’re more fun when you can share the experience.  People don’t buy KTM toasters because they’re introverts and hope nobody notices their officially branded Austrian toast –they want people to be over at their (condemned) apartment saying, ‘dude! Where’d you get that toaster!’  The World Ducati Week folks have the right idea with the social gathering as a marketing tool and I hope that the new economy, even if it is shaky, can foster more KTM toaster, Ducati and motorcycles talk on the local level. 

*"Global Motorcycles." Motorcycles Industry Profile: Global (2011): 1-40. Web. 28 June 2012.
Quiz answer: 2006 was the last year of the previous ‘MotoGP’ inspired design for the Honda CBR600RR.

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