It's something that all of our parents and grandparents have complained about at one time or another. Unfortunately, we will one day suffer the same fate, telling our children and grandchildren as they roll their eyes and reply with a insincere "yeah sure, ok.". That complaint is that, they just don't make things how they used to. Motorcycles from the 60's and 70's all came with chrome, which has been replaces with lighter, cheaper plastic. Steel frames are now aluminum.
Isn't it an outrage? Isn't it just the worst? Well here's the bad news, if motorcycle sales ever want to get back up like they once were, and even grow and expand, companies will need to double down on this tactic. We may not like this way of marketing, but it's motorcycle's only chance. Big brands will need to figure out how to make the same bike cheaper, not better.
Companies have already started doing this. It isn't uncommon to see a list of motorcycles priced under 5000 new, and some over seas companies are making them even cheaper. The problem is, this is on the backburner of these companies. Everyone seems to be trying to push the envelope. How faster can we go? What technology features can we add? These are great for a small group. However, companies may not realize that there is an entire market wanting to purchase, but simply can't.
Alright, time to explain myself here. I know not everyone will love the idea of making bikes cheaper, but here is why that is important. I will use my personal experience as a millennial for this example. I have been wanting to purchase a motorcycle for a while, and right now, used prices are almost as much as new, which means you might as well buy new. $5000 is about the lowest you can get an entry level bike for. Now add the dealer fees and taxes. You are looking at $6500 out the door. Wait! What about riding gear? That will run you another $1000+ from head to toe. That means you are looking at $7500 minimum out the door for a motorcycle.
The problem with this is that millennials like myself look at motorcycles slightly different than older riders do. To the younger crowd, motorcycles are unsafe, and really just occasional recreational machines. Not work commuters. So how many millennials can afford a $7500 weekend cruiser? Not many. Nor do many of them have any interest in spending that type of money on something they will barely use. Heck for that price, I could buy every gaming console, a new computer, and a 86 inch 4k TV with a home stereo system that even Skid Row would approve of. I would even have enough to fly to Vegas for a week.
Everywhere I see, Companies talk about putting superchargers in their bikes. It appears to be the hot button at the moment. I watched a review recently of a Kawasaki super charged bike, and the only thing I could think of was, "who the hell needs that much power on a bike? That sounds like an accident waiting to happen".
You might be rolling your eyes at me, and thinking "you don't belong on a motorcycle". However here is where the pills get hard to swallow. This is how Millennials think. Gen Xers are even worse. They drive Tesla's and electric vehicles, public health and safety is all over the news. Times are changing and so is the market. Millennials couldn't care less about 200 HP on a bike. Nor do they care about the "roar" of a Harley. We want affordable, safe, options that are better for the environment. Sounds boring right? It is. But that's how the market has shifted, and making these types of bikes is the only way for sales to start to increase.
Making Innovative Touring models is still relevant. It just shouldn't be the primary focus. How many people do you see under the age of 50 that can afford a $30,000 motorcycle? Heck, My mom's new car cost a third less and had a turbo in it for goodness sake. These models will still be purchased by older consumers who's rule is "can't take it with you". That market is so much smaller than the potential untapped younger crowd.
Yet companies still don't get it. Harley released the livewire two years ago and it was a disaster. "What do you mean millennials can't afford a $35,000 electric motorcycle?". What I would like to see is creative ways to reduce the cost on street cruisers. Not all models need digital displays, or ABS. Another awesome idea is selling your own brands gear in a package with the bike. Think about it, it's free advertising and ensures the rider is always wearing your brand head to toe. Buy a bike for $4500, get fitted from head to toe for free. Heck I'd buy one. If I could leave the dealership on my Honda Rebel 300 with a new helmet, jacket, pants, and boots, (Even if they are spammed with Honda logos) I'd be the happiest customer on this side of the continent. I might even buy my wife one too.
Value. That is the name of the game, and motorcycle riders are struggling to keep up. If we want sales to increase and allow for more expansion in the industry, makers need to understand where the untapped market is, and it isn't in a $30,000 bike with twin turbo.