Walking into the office of a company is always an interesting experience. For a company, the work place is the first expression of the company’s culture. Similarly, workspaces are often a reflection of the people that work inside them, an occupational rorschach test if you will. Yet, despite its importance and revealing nature, a company headquarters is rarely experienced by the end-consumer. It is an interesting disparity that occurs in every industry, and the electric motorcycle scene is no different.
In my last year of business school I had to write a business plan in order to officially obtain a concentration in Corporate Innovation & Entrepreneurship. This was before the complete global economic meltdown, and entrepreneurship was still very much a dirty word in the hallowed walls of our MBA program. Many of my classmates were hoping for Wall Street jobs, and the class all-stars were all vying for jobs at the hottest hedge funds, so the idea of starting a company that would likely pay a negative paycheck in its first couple years was very much a foreign concept. It comes as no surprise then that only four or five business plans were submitted for consideration for the course concentration; one of which was mine, entitled Tradition is Not a Business Model – An American Sportbike Business Plan.
In this article, and its subsequent series of articles, I hope to re-examine what it means to start a motorcycle company in the United States. While my original business plan centered around the concept of a traditional motorcycle with an internal combustion engine, this series of articles will instead take the opportunity to look into corporate innovation in the motorcycle industry, through the lens of the newly formed electric motorcycle sector. In what I hope will become a weekly conversation on business in the motorcycle industry, we begin our discussion first with the perspectives of four entrepreneurs, which you’ll see in the coming Sunday Editions of Asphalt & Rubber.
It looks like there will be a respite over the battle to keep childrens’ dirt bikes on the showroom floors as the Consumer Product Safety Commission and officials representing motorcycle manufacturers and dealers have come to an agreement that will temporarily lift the federal ban on children’s motor vehicles that contain lead. The Motorcycle Industry Council has released at statement of its own about the temporary measure, and while they are pleased with the announcement, they urge Congress to step in and make a more permanent solution for children riders.
BMW Motorrad USA will show the S1000RR superbike in the United States for the first time this coming Memorial Day weekend at the Miller Motorsports Park World Superbike round, with the bike hitting US dealership floors by January 2010. Pieter de Waal, Vice President of BMW Motorrad USA, has revealed that BMW intends to position the S1000RR against litre-class superbikes from Japan.
Ducati at the Qatar GP race last week release more photos and information on the Desmosedici GP9’s new carbon fiber frame. Ducati calls this “the next step in the advancement” of their GP series motorcycles. The objective behind the new frame is to create a chassis set-up in which each element carries out a specific function, to obtain the desired rigidity with as little weight as possible, thus attaining maximum efficiency.
Entries for the upcoming TTXGP have been announced, and five teams have entered to run the Isle of Man on electric wheels. Mission Motors, EVO Design Solutions, Kingston University, Brammo, and Motorczysz will make up the field. The teams have just 64 more days to get their bikes ready for competition, which could be a tall order for some of them, whose bikes still only exist as CAD drawings.
We have a very reserved opinion on how TTXGP will go down. While these teams have been able to gain a great deal of attention in the blogsphere about their projects, it would seem virtually all of them haven’t actually built even a prototype yet (excluding Brammo). In the tech industry, we call this Vaporware, and with less than 10 weeks before race day, we have a hard time conceiving how all these teams will be able to deliver in this short of a time frame. Never-the-less, the TTXGP will be a big day not only for electric motorcycle racing, but also for electric motorcycles in general. Continue reading for a description of each team from their press releases.
You may remember the NY Times article that we mentioned a few days ago that was critical of the company’s current status and direction. In response to the NY Times article, Harley-Davidson is running the above ad in an attempt to provide a counter-argument to the criticism that the company is on shaky ground.
It should come with little surprise that Harley-Davidson is again playing on Patriotic themes and rhetoric that shifts the focus from the fact the company has serious issues ahead of it, and to date not clear plan on how they are going to overcome them. In addition to this ad, a message was sent out to all Harley-Davidson employees, read it after the jump.
The New York Times ran a great article this week about the challenges facing Harley-Davidson, both from the current economic depression, and more generally as the quintessential Harley rider gets older in age. In summation, Harley-Davidson dealers around the US and overseas are seeing sales drop dramatically as people scale back their expensive purchases, and as the access to credit becomes increasingly difficult. There’s no real surprise there, and any hardcore fan will be quick to tell you that Harley will be back on top once this financial turmoil is over. However, looking farther down the road at Harley-Davidson’s long-term business position, there is additional trouble brewing as well. Baby-boomers account for the majority of Harley sales, and they are getting older. The NY times ends there with its commentary, but we think there’s more to the story on Harley-Davidson and the American bike market in general.