With the announcements of KTM lopping $3,500 of the KTM 1198 RC8 R’s price tag, thus replacing the RC8 as the base superbike model in its line-up, and the new 2011 KTM RC8 R Race Spec track bike, something appears to be afoot with the Austrian brand. It’s no secret that with the down economy, RC8s (along with just about every other sport bike) haven’t exactly been flying off the dealer floors, which has lead to some speculation that the reduced price on the higher spec model could be purely to help spur sales of the “Ready to Race” awesomebike. We disagree in part.
If we’re to believe the idea that this is only a sales promotion to help KTM sell a few more bikes, it would first seem strange that KTM appears to only be concerned about moving its RC8 R superbikes, which account for very little of its product volume. It’s also very strange that after releasing the RC8 in 2008 that KTM would now, three years after the fact, begin to seriously push sales on its entry into the Superbike market (without similar heavy incentives for other bikes in its stable).
Bringing only 50 units over to the United States in 2008, RC8 & RC8 R sales haven’t exactly skyrocketed since, and have catered to a selective and affluent motorcyclist who is looking for a v-twin that’s not made in Italy. KTM has seemed content to let the RC8/RC8 R models do their thing, mired by a high sticker price and spotty dealer coverage (this is a brand after all known for its dirt, not street bikes). Call it the laissez-faire approach to superbike marketing.
Over the past 3+ years, KTM has released several limited edition models, presumably to help pump a few more bikes through the channels with a sufficiently high-priced margin. The latest of these creations being the 2011 KTM 1190 RC8 R Race Spec track bike that features 180hp and a bevy of go-fast aftermarket parts. With the only notable revision in RC8’s model history being the larger displacement of the RC8 R series, the question begs to be asked why is the Austrian brand just now getting aggressive with its superbike offering? After all, it could just as easily let the model ride for another model year, as it has consistently done.
The answer is a simple one for those familiar with product development: a new model is coming down the pipe, that isn’t based off the current RC8 design. If the RC8 R was due for another minor revision for 2012, KTM would be under little pressure to push RC8 R’s out the door. But with its substantial $3,500 price cut on the awesomebike, KTM seems to be serious on moving some product, and soon. While we have no insider knowledge to suggest this is the case, the very fact that the RC8 design will be turning four years old (older if you want to count its 2005 public debut), is almost compelling enough evidence that the model is due for a ground-up re-tooling.
Despite the fact the RC8 R is more than capable, both on the spec sheet and on the track, against its Italian counterparts, it’s clear that 2012 will usher in a new game-changer for the market segment. With Aprilia nipping at both Ducati and KTM’s heels with its RSV4 Factory APRC SE, Ducati has already put into development its new Superbike offering. With reliable sources pegging the new Ducati as having 20+ hp and -20 lbs over its predecessor, the bar in the v-twin superbike category is about to get moved a bit higher.
Of course the interesting thing to note in the Ducati side of this equation is the fact that the Bologna-based company released its own “inventory incentive” bike this model year as well. The 2011 Ducati Superbike 1198 SP is basically a 1198 S with some extra features and lower price tag, designed to help lure customers into dealers, while rumors and spy photos of its next Superbike will likely surface during the course of this summer and fall (Ducati also updated the 1198 base model with other add-on features). Aggressively priced and mildly updated models is the product strategist’s go-to tool for making sure old inventory clears out before a new model. Now, doesn’t that sound familiar?