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Gabe 06-25-2001 09:21 PM

Their own damn fault!
I don't know why they made the Superhawk with a squishy frame and weird suspension. We all know Honda can make great all-arounder sportbikes- observe the CBR600 or the CBR900 series. A lot of guys want a bike that's comfy around town or on longish rides and can do a track day comfortably. The Superhawk is just a little less comfortable than some of the bikes that can do-it-all, so why buy one?

Gabe 06-25-2001 09:32 PM

Where did you hear about this?
Do you have a link? Ugly or no, pretty newsworthy, doncha think?

Vlad 06-26-2001 05:17 AM

Re: Questions about bike sales, dealerships and demand
The issue isn't really about the various bikes that are for sale, it's about the way Americans perceive motorcycles. As a former GM for a dealer and a long observer of the industry, I realize that the difficulty is that we, as Americans, do not see motorcycles as transportation. We see them as recreation. There was an article some time back (I think it was in Dealer News) that made much the same point, so my thoughts on this issue are not original, though I do have my own interpretation of it.

In Europe, motorcycles are transportation. They get better mileage (and with gas $4.00 or more a gallon, that's critical). They're easy to handle on narrow streets (some dating back centuries). They're easier to maintain and cost less to begin with (another important factor, especially in the poorer countries). As a further example, the British industry fell on hard times as the British economy recovered from WWII. Small cars replaced motorcycles, and they were more marginalized than in tougher times. But the U.S. has long had cheap gas, cheap cars, and wide roads. Here it's perceived as strange to arrive at an upscale destination on a bike. But the bellmen at four star resorts in Switzerland all seem to know how to detach the saddlebags from a BMW bike.

As a nation, we are comfort seekers. It's a lot easier to hop in a car than don a helmet, riding gear, and gloves. Our drivers are not accustomed to seeing bikes. Motorcycling ends up being more dangerous. Our drivers are less skilled than in Europe, where driving is considerred a priviledge, not a right. (If you doubt that, take a look at German licensing requirements or their drunk driving laws.)

The only time that motorcycling stood on the threshold of becoming considered transportation in the last fifty years was during the oil embargo. For a brief time, people bought motorcycles as transpotation. True, there weren't many, but there were enough to make a strong upward blip in sales. But it didn't last long. Americans got used to gas over a dollar a gallon, and the cars became more efficient.

So, as a dealer, you are not often in the position of selling efficient and exciting transportation. You're selling recreation. It is our society's perceptions of the car and the general availability of cheap gas that stymie motorcycle sales and keep us on the margins. So your question is a "change the world" question. The only real answer is for our gas prices to rise to where they should be, to about $4.00 a gallon. The side benefits would be immense. The environment would improve, traffic would no longer be a nightmare, our nation's balance of payments would change, our roads would last longer, and our drivers might just become polite.

Then again, even expensive gas might not be enough to overcome our society's general aversion to physical effort. And we shouldn't forget how healthy our own motorcycle industry was before our nation became so wealthy that a car was within everyone's reach. We had a host of manufacturers back in the twenties and thirties. All except Harley died, though a few of them have been reborn. Compare that to Italy, where a new scooter manufacturer (Aprilia) can come out of nowhere to be a large and profitable corporation. Now they are extending into motorcycles. In the U.S. that would be impossible. For a real revelation, visit Naples. There the scooter is a main form of transportation. It's cheap, it works, and just about everybody seems to ride one. It's about as common to see a scooter in Naples as it is to see a Ford Explorer here.

Francis Clark (vlad)

pplassm 06-26-2001 05:41 AM

Re: Questions about bike sales, dealerships and demand
I agree with all the above sentiments, and, having lived in Europe for a while, agree that the main reason is that we Americans do not regard motorcycles as a necessity. They are not used for normal transportation. Consider: Despite the fact that Harley-Davidsons are "flying" out of the showroom, how many do you see on the way to work? I saw one this morning, along with a BMW and one other Japanese sportbike. Seems like everybody considers them expensive toys.

A side efffect, or possible cause, (chicken or egg?) is the leniency of operational rules in Europe applied to motorcycles. It is commonplace for European motorcyclists to split lanes, park on the sidewalk, and just plain do stuff that would get you arrested over here.

Because we look at motorcycles as non-essential, there is a trend to avoid buying something practical, and heading for the newest, flashiest bike available.

Pete P.

theDuke2001 06-26-2001 05:57 AM

Re: Europe vs. the U.S.
Vlad, I agree with your comments and want to add something else. I was recently in Italy and couldn't help but be amazed at the variety and number of small displacement motorcycles and scooters.

One thing that makes them a more viable means of transportation is that there are laws (or lack of them) that encourage their use. Lane splitting seemed commonplace, for one thing.

It also appeared that motorcycle-only parking areas were commonplace and many bikes were just crammed into any available space.

Here in Michigan, one must park a motorcycle in a "regular" metered car spot on the street. This makes them no more convenient to ride into a city center than a Ford Excursion and also means that they are vulnerable to the brilliantly skilled parking maneuvers of our beloved SUV drivers.

Ann Arbor, where I live now, used to have motorcycle specific parking areas... which were nothing more than smaller parking spaces... each with its own meter (charging the same hourly rate as cars). Surprise, they were usually empty and have since given way to more car-sized spaces.

In all the talk of conservation when gas prices spiked recently, I never heard any talk of encouraging alternative forms of transportation like motorcycles or scooters. Perhaps now is the time time for the us and the AMA to start lobbying for the positive impact motorcycles can have on fuel consumption and urban congestion.

ColinL 06-26-2001 05:58 AM

Re: Questions about bike sales, dealerships and demand
Change our world? $4/gallon the "right" price for gas?

I beg to differ. First of all I have no interest in paying additional taxes, which is the only reason Europe's prices are in that range.

Secondly, the bump we saw this year was enough to disrupt the economy. High energy prices weigh down the entire economy because they cause inflation. (Over 70% of the goods in the country are trucks, trucks use higher priced fuel, pass the costs to the consumer eventually.) I'm very glad the 'economists' were wrong about gas prices so far, as they've receeded this summer instead of hitting all-time highs. There's still time for them to go higher, sure.


Gixxerboy 06-26-2001 06:08 AM

Re: Their own damn fault!
Actually, I like the Superhawk and find it quite comforatable (even on 600mile rides) - that is everything (riding position, engine, sound, looks) except the front end... doesn't seem planted and skitters a lot in bumpy corners unlike my ancient GSXR. If they'd have fixed the front end feel, I would have looked for one. As it is... I think I'm looking for a vfr.

squidly 06-26-2001 06:12 AM

Re: Questions about bike sales, dealerships and demand
It's not so much the leniency of the European motorcycle laws as it is how they were designed with motorcycles in mind as a viable form of transportation.

Roadman 06-26-2001 07:06 AM

Re: Where did you hear about this?
They are all over So Cal. I took one around the block.

wwalkersd 06-26-2001 07:13 AM

Re: Questions about bike sales, dealerships and demand
Having just returned from a trip to Germany, I have to point out that at least they appear to do the right things with their high fuel taxes. Freshly-repaved roads here aren't as smooth as the average German country two-lane, let alone the autobahn. They put up warning signs for bumps we would consider normal surface variations.

Somebody mentioned they park on the sidewalk. Well, hey, they park their _cars_ on the sidewalk too, half the time. I think it's partly cultural and partly the old, narrow streets.

Re the drivers, we drove around Germany on both autobahns and two-lanes for two weeks and never saw an accident or the aftermath of one. The drivers were universally skilled and polite.

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