I have a question for you. Why is it that we have three main auto companies in the United States with a total of eight brands and yet when it comes to motorcycles, we only have two companies, selling two brands, at just one market? (Ok. If you want to get technical, Indian is sold separately by Polaris, making it a third brand.)
Everyone knows the first company, Harley/Davidson.
While they have multiple motorcycles in their stable, they all appeal to the same demographic.
To put it another way, let’s say H/D is Lincoln and that Polaris is Cadillac. Both aim at the mid to late 30’s and up buyer. You get the same style engine, same style layout (seating position), and shoot for the same presence. One is styled more to the art-deco style of design (Victory/Cadillac), while the other is more formal (Harley/Lincoln). Indian would be a retro styled caddy sharing a platform with the DTS.
Either way, you’re looking at a cruiser in the mid 14K range and wearing black leather. One says you’re a bad ass, the other says you’re a sophisticated bad ass. Where’s the diversity? (That’s what their marketing pushes, so don’t yell at me for saying it. I know that there are a lot of riders out there who don’t give a damn about the market image, and in a way, that’s what this is about.)
Touring, Cruiser, Standard, Adventure, Sport, Dual Sport, and Off Road.
That’s a wide segment reaching a variety demographics.
Why don’t we have this? Where is the American Dual Sport? Where is our Standard or Adventure? How come there isn’t an American motorcycle company offering engines smaller than 800ccs? This is America, we love having choices! Where is our choice when it comes to American motorcycles?
If I was going to create a new American motorcycle company, this is how I would do the line-up.
First would be a small engine standard. 250 cc to go against the Nighthawk and the TU250
Then I’d have one in the 500-600 cc range
These two bikes would also be the foundation for the Off Road, Dual Sport, and Adventure slots with unique suspension and frame modifications to fit the necessary niche. (For example: A 600 cc Adventure would have more suspension travel that the standard, but less that the Off Road; and your seating/leg positions would be set for the maximum comfort and strength needed for the task. More upright for off road, more relaxed for cross country.) I’d also expand to a 250 entry level sport bike.
I’d have a 1,000 cc engine for the cruiser, sport, touring, and adventure slots.
And I’d have a big 1,800 for the high zoot touring and adventure models.
All engines would be water-cooled, and they would be based off one engine platform for cost savings. (This is where the engineers and other technical people have to step up and suggest which cc size to start from. The 600 or the 1,000.)
You price the line up about $1,000 less than the direct competition from Honda and Suzuki. (Maybe $3,000 less on the high zoot tourer.) And then you market the hell out of them!
You run an ad campaign just like the one’s Suzuki did for their Samurai. “Beep-beep. Hi!”
You avoid the whole black leather, scowling look thing and push the friendly, outgoing attitude.
You want to expand to scooters, go for it!
And name the damn bikes! I can’t stand these alpha-numeric “names” on cars today. Want some examples? Here ya go.
The Standard is the Palomino
The Cruiser is the Thoroughbred.
The Adventure is called the Mustang. (Deal with it Ford.)
The Sport bike is called the Furioso
The Tourer is called the Morgan
The Dual Sport is called the Holstein
The Off Road is the Appaloosa
Every name is from a horse and calls up the old American spirit. This is great for advertising, marketing, and emotional attachment to the buyer/owner.
So what do you think? Is there a place in the motorcycle market for an American company that sells types beyond cruisers and tourers? Do you think someone should start a company like this? What would you do to tweak it here or there?
Give me your thoughts. If anything it’s a fun exercise.