Welcome to the first issue of MMM for 2014. Riding season is almost here, and you’re likely stoked about getting back out on two wheels. For a few of you, the only change is that riding season is about to become a bit warmer.
As you’ll read in future issues, I chose the fly-and-ride option and came back with some unique experiences.
Back at home, the Progressive International Motorcycle Show (IMS) arrived in Minneapolis in January – a month earlier than past years. Judging from what I saw, young people are just as stoked about motorized two-wheelers nowadays as they’ve ever been. IMS revealed a sea of youth scrutinizing all forms of two-wheeler, from scooter to sport bike to standard cruiser. The atmosphere among these tweens, teens and young adults seemed thick with desire.
Yet, as Thomas W. Day wrote in this issue’s Geezer With A Grudge, the fat part of the motorcycle-buying public is growing older.
A bevy of scholarly types have during the past few years suggested young people – Gen Y, or Millennials – place little significance on motorized transportation. Even motorcycle industry organizations, during their annual meetings, have welcomed speakers espousing the thought.
The thing is, the suggestion that young people aren’t into two-wheelers, or cars, seems like bullshit. There are other reasons I subscribe to that better explain away the greying of the population.
A recent report from consulting firm Deloitte LLP suggested cost remains a barrier to many Millennial consumers, with 80% of those without a vehicle saying that it is because they cannot afford it.
“Affordability is the mantra for Gen Y consumers who don’t already own or lease a vehicle,” Craig Giffi, Deloitte vice chairman, told Automotive News.
Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally recently stressed the need for the auto industry to lower price points and make vehicles more affordable. “We have to find a way,” he said in an interview with the Detroit News. “All of our data say the economics are very, very important.”
At the same time, OEMs have long stressed the U.S. market – what they like to dub a “mature” market – is dominated by big-bore bikes (ie, supersports, heavy-weight cruisers and, now, SUV-like standards). Well, yeah, if that’s all you ever offer.
If you build a kick-ass bike at low cost in Thailand, why not bring it to the U.S.?
I’m not necessarily a proponent of the build-it-and-they-will-come justification for production. That’s not good business. But, like Ford importing the Fiesta and Focus alongside its trucks and SUVs, Toyota offering the Yaris, Corolla, Camry and Avalon, and Chevrolet creating the North American Spark, Sonic and Cruze to be offered with its sportscars, SUVs and trucks, one would think motorcycle manufacturers would mirror the concept of offering consumers a range of options in size and price. Yeah, yeah, federal CAFÉ standards … but CAFÉ standards have little to do with consumer desire. And consumers are buying these smaller transportation offerings.
So what, in my opinion, does the motorcycle industry need to turn these youthful tire-kickers into riders? The answer appears glaringly obvious: An increased selection of two-wheelers that start, run, turn, stop … and look great … for prices that fit the pocket books of today’s post-pubescent would-be purchasers of power sports products.
Honda, formerly among the worst offenders, recently rebounded with its multiple 250s, 500cc line-up and price-conscious 700s. And, as you’ll read in a future issue, KTM’s effort for a larger share of the on-road market finally coaxed it to bring its small displacement India-made product to the U.S. Lets hope other OEs follow suit.
Now, if someone could figure out how to properly mount a bike while wearing those Hipster skinny jeans.
Ride safe and have fun.