A necessary step to selling in the Golden State, the news means that Erik Buell Racing can begin shipping RX and SX models to its California dealers, who in turn can now begin selling the bikes to the eager Californian biking public.
Erik Buell Racing has announced that over 60 dealerships will be carrying the 2014 Erik Buell Racing 1190RX, the new sport bike from EBR that is slated to be released in March of this year.
After unveiling the new bike last October at the American International Motorcycle Expo in Orlando, EBR began to scout dealerships in major metropolitan areas that were prime motorcycle markets.
Last week we reported to you that Suzuki Motor of America was set to cut 10% to 20% of its powersports dealerships, as a part of its corporate restructuring and bankruptcy of the now defunct American Suzuki Motor Corporation. Clarifying that news, Suzuki has given a clearer figure, saying that 98 of the company’s 930 dealers will be getting the axe.
According to Suzuki, the roughly 10% of dealerships that did not see their contract assumed by Suzuki Motor of America accounted for only 2.5% of the company’s retail sales in the past 12 months (2.8% of retails sales in the past three years), making Suzuki’s actions more of a culling of the herd than anything else.
When news came that American Suzuki Motor Corporation was to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the news was pitched that it would benefit the company’s motorcycle interests, as Suzuki would no longer be tied-down with its ailing automotive division in the USA, and instead would be left to focus on its powersports offerings.
While that general statement may remain true, Powersports Business has learned that the Japanese OEM plans on closing 100 to 200 of its roughly 930 powersports dealerships. This would mean a roughly 10% to 20% reduction in Suzuki dealerships nationwide — a decision that has more than a few dealers feeling a bitter taste in their mouths.
For the past few weeks or so, I have been conversing back-and-forth with my cousin-in-law about 3D printing. Apparently, some sort of hobbyist 3D printing shop has opened in his home town of Pasadena, and my geekier-than-me relative has been chomping at the bit to see what the consumer-level 3D printers can build.
Since my special brand of geekiness has already assured that the bloodline stops at my branch of the family tree, you can imagine the uber-nerd fest we both have been having, trading links on Facebook about the different things that rapid-prototype machines and 3D printers can achieve.
For those who are not familiar with the technology, the name really does give away about 90% of the special sauce. Using a plastic in lieu of ink, 3D printer can actually build three-dimensional objects in a process not that dissimilar to your home ink jet printer (Jay Leno has been using 3D printing to replace impossible-to-find parts for his classic car collection).
The more robust and industrial units use lasers to shape and heat the plastic ink, and are able to achieve a high-degree of object resolution. We can think of more than a few electric motorcycle startups that are currently using this rapid-prototyping process to develop their street and race bikes. It’s very fascinating, but also very expensive stuff.
This is where the consumer side of the equation comes in, as the post-industrial form of 3D printing has not only rapidly increased in its ability to flawlessly create a high-resolution object, but the cost of both the 3D printer and its “ink” have dramatically dropped. Hobbyist models are now in the $400-$2,000 range, and could soon be as ubiquitous as the printer sitting next to the computer you are using to read this article.
As the price-point drops and resolution increases further, the consumer end of this technology could rival the industrial side of 3D printing, and that is where things get real interesting for the motorcycle industry, and manufacturing in general.
When Motus released the final details on its inaugural 2013 Motus MST motorcycle, we were shocked to see that the Alabama company did not have any dealerships lined up for west of The Rockies (surely the bigger shock felt by others was the $30,000+ price tag). Well that has changed now according to Motus, which has signed up four West Coast dealerships, one in California, one in Washington, and two in Nevada. Sorry folks, the price is still the same though.
Indiana is on the verge of redeeming itself in the eyes of Asphalt & Rubber, as the Hoosier State is all set to vote on allowing motorcycle dealers to sell bikes on the Lord’s day (that’s Sunday for you heathens). Indiana State Senate Bill 192, which is sponsored by State Senator Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso), would end Indiana’s ban on “buying, selling or trading motorcycles on Sundays.” The bill is a part of a larger national movement to do away with one of the motorcycle industries more puritanical customs of trade.
Before I make my customary offensive remarks about states that aren’t California, it should be noted that we here at Asphalt & Rubber are eternally grateful for the fine Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the birthplace of our humble motorcycle news blog. That being said, it’s also good to see that the Keystone State has pulled its head out of its ass long enough to pass a bill (passed in the Senate, with the House still to vote) that would allow motorcycle dealers to sell motorcycles on Sundays, though car dealers will still have to abide by the current legislation.
“I’m not sure why it was ever done,” said State Representative Eugene DePasquale (York County). “I’ll leave it to legislators who were alive when that passed to answer that one.” Talking of keeping the status quo for car dealers, State Senator Richard Alloway II (Adams, Franklin, and York Counties), the bill’s co-sponsor, said, “I have heard a lot of car dealers like to be closed, so it’s a day people can walk lots with no pressure from anyone and window shop.”
As we write the timeline on the evolution of the electric motorcycle, the bullet points for 2011 will note a few key events, and one of them surely will be the adoption of a traditional sales distribution scheme. It’s not a sexy event, but it’s an important one in the growth of this side of the industry. You see when resourced-backed electric motorcycle manufacturers entered the scene, the idea was that a new drivetrain meant a new set of rules, and from that a new playbook was drafted. The idea of selling electric motorcycles at traditional motorcycle dealerships was abandoned, and in its place these companies tried new approaches — some clever, and some not so much.
Direct-to-consumer sales approaches, online purchasing, ad hoc customer sales leads, and even Best Buy all entered into these new models of how to get a motorcycle into a purchaser’s hands…and they all failed. It is no small feat to start a motorcycle company, and it is an even taller order to make an electric one. Not only do you have to sell your would-be-buyer on the features of your motorcycle, but you then also have to sell them on why their purchase should be an electric motorcycle, and not its ICE equivalent.
The undertaking of proving out a new method of selling motorcycles is a burden in its own right for an established motorcycle manufacturer, let alone a startup, so its failure should come as little surprise to those in the industry with this experience. It is therefore not surprising that we get news that both Zero Motorcycles and Brammo have abandoned their previous sales distribution schemes, in favor of adopting a more traditional dealer network approach.
Harley-Davidson has instructed its dealers not to talk about how sales have been throughout the recession, but the news that 36 dealerships have closed in the past year, and more closures are expected in 2011, speaks for itself on how sales have been. On a conference call with analysts CFO John Olin said, “This contraction was expected and in-line with our desire to modestly consolidate our U.S. dealer network in response to lower overall volume since the economic downturn took hold,” which is a very glossed over way of saying that American brand has become too bloated over the past years, and needs to go on a diet.
Harley-Davidson expects to ship between 221,000 & 228,000 motorcycles worldwide in 2011, which is up 8% over last year’s figure, but still pales in comparison to the numbers the Milwaukee brand was posting before the economic collapse (303,479 in 2008). Since 2006, sales at Harley-Davdison have continued to slide, but the most dramatic affect was in 2010, where sales were down 30% compared to before the recession (over 36% in the domestic market).