Motorcycle

Japanese bikers have listened except Suzuki

 

Yes I’m a biker. In my former life as an analyst I visited the major Japanese motorcycle makers to discuss their bike businesses. Kawasaki and Yamaha were the most relatively upbeat with Honda and Suzuki keeping to a tired old script of commodity product. At least Honda could be forgiven because it was focusing on the 19mn odd bikes it makes annually, most sold in SE Asia.

In any event I said they should look to doing more retro product. I even argued and proved to these makers that good condition bikes of 30 years ago were selling for higher prices than that of the new product today. If that didn’t tell then where biker’s hearts are then nothing would. Suzuki’s bike business has been struggling for ages and for all the best intentions I said this is a picture I had on my wall aged 16. The GSX-R750. If you made a modern version I’d buy one in a heartbeat. I said that the 18yos who could legally ride one can’t afford it. Old buggers like me don’t need 200hp and fluorescent graphics. We ride to revive our youth. If it visually reminds us of that we’ll want to make the reconnection. Besides we are the ones that are likely to be able to afford it. Midlife crises averted. Marriages saved!

Even Kawasaki realized the Mad Max movies with rebel bikie gangs was absolutely positive for the brand that they’ve now launched the Z900RS, an homage to the original Z. They’ll sell like hot cakes.

 

Honda has managed to find a pulse in all of its dreary line up too with the CB1100. They did a custom version at the bike show but the Honda man said there was no plan. I never understand why makers openly ignore customer desires through overwhelming positive feedback.

 

Yamaha has also joined the party with the XJR1300 although weirdly don’t sell it in the home market?!?

 

So I’m praying Suzuki build the retro GSX-R because it was probably the model I coveted most as a kid. In its day it created a segment much like the Sony Walkman did for personal tape players. This would be akin to Suzuki switching their bike profitability with Sony megabass and presets! Do it!

Why winning matters

In a world that is sliding down the slippery slope of participation prizes and everyone is a winner, Ducati MotoGP rider Andrea Dovisioso proved why winning isn’t a bad thing (watch the video) and why competition breeds success and overwhelming joy to the victor. Since joining the MotoGP class in 2011, Dovi had only won 2 races til last season. This year he has won 5. He had been in positions to win in the past but misfortune (usually being wiped out by other riders) has stifled any shot at the title.

Today he was up against championship leader Marc Marquez who is without a doubt the toughest rider to face on a last lap. The word “give 150%” doesn’t even begin to describe his riding style.He rides that bike like he stole it.  Even in the pouring rain with no real safety aids in braking or traction control, Dovi managed to outbrake Marquez in a risky move that (literally) stuck.

Now these bikes way 157kg and have 270hp. These two riders are 1&2. Dovi is smelling the championship that he’s not attained (Marquez already 3) and had to risk it to stay in the hunt. So under intense pressure he produced a diamond and spoke of utter grit. No knees taken. No politics. Just a win that defied the odds. The satisfaction that came with his win could be felt by the crowd and even those who support others congratulated him.

So whenever I hear of read of participation medals given to all these kids in sports events I wonder what lessons are we teaching them about the real world which is nothing like this. Wrapping kids in cotton wool is pointless. The daughter of a friend said she was told after winning three races in a row would she mind not winning again in the following races to give the other kids a chance. Is it any wonder we have a generation of self entitled kids who expect to get a good paying job without having to “earn it”. Dovi if you manage to beat the best over the final three races then we’ll know you earned it and deservedly so.

Monstering the Red Bull war?

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Today’s motorsport sponsorship is now the domain of the energy drink makers. Long gone are the tobacco sponsors. Race teams were synonymous with their cigarette brands – Marlboro McLaren, Rothmans Honda and Lucky Strike Suzuki. While tobacco sponsorship was banned for promoting unhealthy habits one wonders when carbonated energy drinks will meet the same fate?

Monster has been the company experiencing the fastest growth. While Red Bull holds the top share (43%) , Monster has taken 39% of the market in 2015 up from around 12% in 2006.

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MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi is sponsored by Monster. A yellow ‘Rossi’ version of the drink is sold amongst the other Monster flavours. If this convenience store is any guide, Rossi Monster is all that seems to be selling in the energy drink market.

Angel Nieto passes away

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13 time motorcycle world champion Angel Nieto has passed away at the age of 70 after suffering injuries in a quad bike accident on July 26. Nieto won 13 titles in the 50cc and 125cc classes. His superstitious beliefs meant he referred to his tally of championships as ’12+1′. He was the first Spanish rider to race in the world championship and the first Spaniard to win the world championship title.

Warned to be mild

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Steppenwolf coined the “born to be wild” moniker which became synonymous with Harley-Davidson. Harley is all about conspicuous consumption. It has generally been a good indicator of discretionary income. Harley is not so much about transport but lifestyle. Harley-Davidson’s sales fell 9.3% in the U.S. and 6.7% globally in Q2 2017, ending June 25th. Harley also stated it had lost ground in the big-bike market (601cc and above), dropping from 49.5% market share to 48.5%. Matt Levatich, President and CEO, Harley-Davidson. “Given U.S. industry challenges in the second quarter and the importance of the supply and demand balance for our premium brand, we are lowering our full-year shipment and margin guidance.” Q3 shipments are expected to be down c.20% (39,000-44,000 units).

Harley-Davidson sold 262,221 motorcycles last year and forecast a flat market this year but has downgraded those numbers to a forecast of 241,000 to 246,000 units (-7~8%). US shipments were well below expectations in the US.

Harley-Davidson is suffering from divine franchise syndrome. It has failed to modernize its line up until very recently. While it has plans to put 2mn new bikers on the road over the next 10 years, its competitors do not seem to be suffering with BMW, KTM and Triumph hitting new shipment records. The European makes have much broader product line-ups which adds to the rumours that Harley may wish to bid for Italian sportsbike maker Ducati from Audi to plug the segment gaps in its line up. Harley has had a failed attempt in the sports category via Buell but the Italian maker brings a proper platform to the party vs an in-house employee wanting to rev up Harley products out of a barn.

 

Record setting pensioner

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You have to hand it to Valentino ‘The Doctor’ Rossi, the 38-yo pensioner scrapping it with kids almost half his age. I’m an unashamed fan as I have been since 1996 when he was in the 125cc class. He managed to win the Dutch GP in Assen today in a typical strategic race, weighing up and wearing down his competition. 9-time world champ, 115 wins and the only rider to win races across a 20-year career. It is no wonder he’s paid €20mn per annum given the fact he hasn’t lost his edge. Sure he isn’t winning with the ease of his youth but he’s still majorly competitive. He is still in the hunt for a 10th championship. Forza Vale

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Rebels too old for a cause

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The average age of motorcyclists in Japan is 53 years old and continuing to climb as younger riders looking to obtain new licenses continues to drift. Between 2010 and 2016 the Japanese National Police Agency (JNPA) noted that large capacity motorcycle license holders (ogata – classified as 400cc+) have fallen by nearly 1,500,000. While mid-size (chugata – classified as below 400cc) have risen around 715,000. Female riders have shown a similar pattern of 178,000 fall in ogata licenses and 147,000 increase in chugata respectively. While there are still 9.175mn men and 625,000 women willing to get out on the highway with large capacity bikes, the trend is alarming. More frighteningly, new graduates aren’t lining up either. 30,000 fewer students lined up to get a mid or large size bike license between 2014 and 2016 representing a 12.3% dip. Latest report found here Motorcycles in Japan – Analogica KK