Honda has announced their 2010 line-up of the Gold Wing model. And for this exciting new year’s models, Honda has sent its top engineers back to the drawing board with this motorcycle, in order to come up with a number of big changes to the colors in which it is available. And why would they do anything else? As honda puts it, “How do you improve on perfection?”
This year, The Gold Wing is available in four colors instead of five: Basic Black, Gunmetal Gray, Dried-Blood Red, and International Safety yellow.
As an added feature, now that the Marysville, OH plant has been shut down they’re guaranteed to be manufactured in Japan.
This is a very exciting time for Honda, I guess.
Anyway, you can see the new lineup here, if you’re interested.
Confederate Motorcycles, the Louisiana-based maker of extremely high-end motorcycles, is all set to publicly unveil their newest model, on August 14th at “The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering” in Carmel, CA. The new P-120 Fighter Combat is powered by a 1966cc V-Twin engine, that puts out 160HP and 145lb-ft of torque. As you can see from the pictures below, this model proves once again that Confederate is not…um…enslaved to conventional concepts of motorcycle design.
No word from Confederate on what the production number will be. They have production runs of anywhere from 35 bikes to 150 bikes per model, but whatever the number is, it’s going to be a very small number. And the price tag will be a very large number, i.e. in the 6-digit range.
Hmmm. You’d think that when you shell out 100 grand for a motorcycle, you’d at least get wheels matched to the design of the bike, wouldn’t you? Heck, for that kind of money, you’d kind of expect the motorcycle to have a rear brake, too.
Well, you’d be wrong.
Motorcycle.Com has just released this year’s comparo of the top sport touring motorcycles. This year, they pit the BMW K1300GT, Yamaha FJR1300A, Kawasaki Concours14, and the venerable Honda ST1300 against each other.
They declare the top bike to be…
Objectively the BMW is the clear winner to us. It makes markedly more power than the others despite not having the biggest engine. Our experiences aboard all four left no question the big K bike is the quickest steering and provides excellent braking performance. It offers very good wind protection, great ergos, an adjustable seat and handlebars, possibly the best passenger perch and very good saddlebags, to name only a few high points.
I’ve never been aboard the St1300 or the C14, but after tiding a K13GT and owning an FJR, I’d pick the FJR any day. I didn’t like the GT at all.
The RT, on the other hand, was a dream.
Harley-Davidson, whatever the company’s faults may be, have gotten one thing consistently right: Marketing. They are a marketing powerhouse. When you buy a Harley-Davidson, you don’t just buy a motorcycle. You buy a ticket to the “Harley Lifestyle”. The company’s marketing is ubiquitous and effective. But not perfect…
H-D’s CEO, Keith Wandell, admitted in an interview with The Business Journal that the company flubbed their forecasts of the recession’s impact on their customers’ buying choices.
[T]he company mistakenly thought the recession would push consumers toward Harley’s Sportster and other less expensive motorcycles.
The company increased production of those types of bikes, but retail sales “didn’t materialize,” he said.
Harley dealers currently have a glut of the mid-priced V-Rod models.
Instead, many consumers who have been buying Harley-Davidson motorcycles have been buying more expensive custom and touring bikes, Wandell said.
“It left us with a bigger imbalance,” he said. “We have a lot of inventory.”
As a result, Harley-Davidson will shut down final assembly operations of the Sportster and V-Rod motorcycles and V-Rod motorcycle powertrain production in Kansas City, and production of Sportster motorcycle powertrains in Wauwatosa, for 14 weeks this year, including all of the fourth quarter.
Let me put on my MBA hat here. (And yes, I do have one. An MBA, I mean. I don’t actually have the hat. But, I’m thinking of getting one made.)
Harley’s real problem, however, is not the occasional tactical marketing error, but a more fundamental strategic error that the company keeps compounding.I’m kind of stunned that the MoCo would make such a mistake about the buying habits of their customers. Sportsters certainly have their fans, but general, people buy a Sportster because they want a Sportster. I can see how someone wanting a Softtail might settle for a Dyna, but not a Sportie. At least with the Dyna they still get the Big Twin engine. Surely the company must know that the Sportster is called the “baby Harley” and “girls bike”. They must have some inkling that salesmen at dealerships constantly advise prospective Sportster buyers that they’ll quickly outgrow the bike, and want a Dyna in a year or so, so why not buy a Dyna that you won’t outgrow instead?
People who want a Big Twin–and often they already have a Metric big twin they’re looking to trade off–aren’t interested in scaling down to a smaller motorcycle. They want one of the big dogs.
And as for the V-Rod…well, I don’t know what they were thinking when they thought they’d see an increase in sales there. It’s a nice bike but it certainly isn’t the company’s most popular product line. Not by a long shot.
It’s strange to see the company make such an unusual tactical error, and now the employees are gonna pay for it, as the MoCo cuts production to align inventory with customer demand.
Harley’s real problem, however, is not the occasional tactical marketing error, but a more fundamental strategic error that the company keeps compounding.
The brand is an absolute icon for the baby boomers. Among the Gen-X set and younger riders…well, not so much. The MoCo has a serious strategic problem when it comes to marketing, in that younger riders just aren’t attracted by the Harley brand. Harley obviously knows that their customers are aging, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve started producing factory trikes, so that their customers can keep riding long after the ability to hold up a 750 lb. hunk of steel fades away.
But Harley’s challenge isn’t to figure out how to keep an aging band of retirees buying their products, but rather how to entice younger riders to the brand. It’s clear that, looking at the advancing average age of H-D customers, they haven’t figured it out. Or rather, if they have, they’ve declined to implement the obvious solution.
To properly understand the problem, we need to look back at a bit of history.
If you were born in, say, 1980, Harley-Davidson has never been the Big Dog motorcycle.I was born in 1964, so that makes me the very last of the baby boomers. When we were growing up a “superbike”–the term didn’t really exist back then–was a Norton Commando 800. A Harley-Davidson was a massive motorcycle with an ungodly large 1200cc engine. You started riding motorcycles with a Montgomery-Wards 125cc thumper, maybe graduated to a BSA 500cc, then you finally got the money to get one of the Big Dogs, a Harley.
In the 70s, that all started to change. The Japanese began producing game-changing bikes like the Honda 750Four, and the Kawasaki Z-1. Performance increased dramatically. By 1984, when Yamaha introduced the frighteningly powerful (for the time) V-Max, real superbikes were available. The mid-80s explosion of Sportbikes, like the Kawasaki Ninja, raised the bar forever in terms of new motorcycle riders’ perceptions about what a powerful motorcycle was.
Harley’s response was, and continues to be, incremental increases in engine displacement from 1200cc air cooled twins to 1600cc air-cooled twins, along with incremental improvements to frames, suspension, and, thus handling. But the styling and riding characteristics of the company’s products remained mainly stuck in the 1950s-1960s.
Don’t believe me? OK. Compare and contrast the two bikes shown here.
Can you think of any other product where so little styling has changed in the past 44 years?
So, if you were born in, say, 1980, Harley-Davidson has never been the Big Dog motorcycle. It’s been a manufacturer of heavy, slow, low-performance cruisers. You’ve grown up in a world of 150+HP superbikes–a world that did not exist when the boomers were young. Younger riders have an entirely different mental impression of how the motorcycling world is put together.
To thrive as a company Harley needs a product that is connected to the modern era, as well as the past. That doesn’t mean that Harley should jettison its classic styling completely. There’ll always be a market for that, because it has a definite appeal to some riders. But to grab younger riders Harley-Davidson–as a company, not a specific brand–has to have something else. It has to have a line of motorcycles that appeals to those younger people who want more sport than cruiser.
And, interestingly enough, Harley already has that with Buell motorcycles. And does almost nothing with them.
First, until last year, the entire Buell line–except for the now-defunct Blast–was limited to cast-off Sportster Evolution engines. Erik Buell’s division tweaked them as well as they could be tweaked, but the XB series of bikes has never–and can never, from a technical point of view–compete with 600cc sportbikes like the Yamaha R6. And I simply can’t believe that an old privateer racer like Erik Buell is satisfied with the performance of the products he’s been allowed to put out by his masters in Milwaukee.
And, to make matters worse, Buell doesn’t even have its own dealership network. Instead, Buells are relegated to the dark corner of Harley-Davidson dealerships, and the sales staffs often know little about the brand…and care even less. I’ve personally had sales people intentionally steer me away from Buells, to point me in the direction of a Softtail or Road King.
H-D needs to move beyond the cruiser world if it wants to compete in the future. And that means letting Buell have some more leeway to operate beyond the Harley-Davidson cruiser world.
Companies survive by making products the public wishes to purchase. They don’t survive on tradition. They don’t survive on selling lifestyles.They need to break into the younger markets by producing bikes that can compete with the Gixxers and Ninjas. That means giving Buell the go-ahead to dump the Thunderstorm engine in favor of water-cooled twins and V-4 or I-4 engines. Buell has some fascinating design ideas for sportbikes, but one of the reasons they’ve never been accepted is that, performance-wise, Buells suck compared to the Japanese brands. Buell needs a powerplant to mate with their technical innovations. The 1125 is a good start. Now, they need to make the next step.
They need to liberate Buell from the H-D dealership network, and open up dealerships where Buell enthusiasts work. It doesn’t matter how good the bikes are if their sales network doesn’t want to sell them. Making the customers force the dealer to sell them a Buell is silly, and it needs to stop.
Harley also has MV Agusta, the venerable maker of Italian sportbikes, including the F4 312RR, the most powerful production motorcycle in the world, as well as its parent company, Cagiva. Maybe figuring out how to get those Italian brands over here would be helpful as well.
Companies survive by making products the public wishes to purchase. They don’t survive on tradition. They don’t survive on selling lifestyles. The reason the MoCo’s customer base is aging and shrinking is because they aren’t making products the younger generation wants to buy.
But Harley owns the brands, and has the capability to make the bikes that will attract the younger generation of buyers. It only remains to be seen if Harley will continue to rest on the laurels of the brand’s prestige, or if it will become determined to compete in the new markets that the Japanese currently own.
Our cousins in The Old Country love motorcycles as much as we do, but they don’t love the same motorcycles, apparently. The French automotive magazine MotoRevue has released their list of top five motorcycles in Europe, and, as you might imagine, they’re quite different from the Motorcyclist picks of the year I wrote about a few days ago.
Three Italians–the Ducati Streetfighter and 1198, and the Aprilia RSV4–head the roster. One Brit bike, the Triuph Speed Triple, makes the list. And the 2009 Yamaha Star V-Max rounds it off.
Apparently, our European cousins are speed freaks. But then, they tend to have speed limits that are a bit less stodgy than those on this side of The Pond.
Yamaha’s Star brand of cruiser motorcycles has announced that the new, monstrously powerful 2010 V-Max is on sale as of today. Sporting a 1679cc liquid-cooled 65° V-4 engine putting out 200 Horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque , the V-Max is the 800-pound gorilla of cruisers.
There’s a downside to this power, though. 27MPG fuel efficiency off of a 4-gallon tank means a refueling stop after less than 100 miles, unless you want to push it. And the handling, while reportedly improved over the pre-2009 models, is still less than optimal. So, no touring or twisties for this beast, just simple hot-rodding.
There’ve been no changes to the V-Max from 2009, except the new Cherry red paint.
Indian Motorcycle is America’s oldest motorcycle brand–although not, it should be pointed out, the oldest continuous manufacturer, due to an unfortunate number of bankruptcies. The venerable brand keeps being revived though, and in its current incarnation, the company has unveiled its 2010 lineup of Indian Chief motorcycles at Sturgis. Top among them is Indian’s version of a dark custom motorcycle, the Dark Chief.
A special model for the 2010 year is the Indian Chief bomber, a motorcycle whose styling is based on World War II aircraft. According to the company:
Inspired by WWII aircraft, the Bomber is a limited edition Chief model and will only be available for one year. The Bomber is available in Military Green and Silver Smoke finishes. The pin-up girl tank artwork is inspired by the Bomber nose art of that era. The leather used on the seat and saddlebags are reminiscent of the feel and color of an old bomber jacket.
If you want an Indian, be prepared to shell out some serious cash. The price for an entry-level model starts at $25,999, and goes up from there.
The global recession just keeps on hurting. Yamaha Motor Company announced that they have some problems, financially, and they substantially cut their profit forecast for the year.
Yamaha Motor Co., the world’s second- largest motorcycle maker, fell the most in nine months after the company quadrupled its forecast to a full-year loss of 182 billion yen ($1.9 billion).
The company dropped 9.9 percent, or 120 yen, to 1,096 yen at the close on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Yamaha, based in Iwata City, Japan, had previously forecast a net loss of 42 billion yen. It posted a loss of 74.7 billion yen in the first half.
The motorcycle maker cut its sales forecast by 12 percent as rising unemployment and falling wages reduces demand for Royal Star cruising bikes. Yamaha plans to close three factories in Japan over the next three years. The company cut its forecast for motorcycle sales in North America this year by 35 percent and lowered its prediction for European sales by 8 percent.
On top of the news from Yamaha, Honda also released some bad news today.
Honda Motor Co.’s domestic production of motorcycles is expected to fall 40 per cent on the year in fiscal 2009 as a result of stalled demand in Japan and delayed inventory adjustments overseas.
Honda’s Kumamoto plant, now its sole domestic manufacturing base for motorcycles, plans to produce 181,000 units this fiscal year, compared with slightly more than 300,000 units in fiscal 2008. The fiscal 2009 figure is also less than half of the facility’s annual output capacity of 460,000 units.
About 50 per cent of the motorcycles manufactured at the Kumamoto plant are for the domestic market, while 90 per cent of the units shipped overseas are for the North American and European markets. Owing to the global economic downturn, overseas and domestic demand has dropped sharply since last autumn, with midsize and large motorcycles among the hardest hit.
It’s a tough time to be in the pleasure/recreational vehicle business.
With the money from my insurance settlement coming, I really am trying to figure out what to do. I know I’ll pay off my FJR, but beyond that, I’m not sure which direction to go.
I rode the R1200RT, and absolutely loved it. But I’d have to trade in my FJR to buy it outright. I’m also really interested in a Buell 1125r, and I can get an ’09 white/blue one for a pretty good deal. Good enough so that I can keep the FJR, and buy an 1125r outright. I have a test ride scheduled for next Saturday on the 1125r.
Assuming I like the power and handling of the 1125r, I’m really in a quandary about which way to jump. The Buell is the only sportbike that has ergos comfy enough for me to ride regularly, but, on the other hand, the BMW has all those cool amenities like cruise control, ASC, ESA, etc. that I miss on the FJR.
This may be my only chance to get a new bike with someone else’s money, and it’s a very hard decision to make.