Saving the scoot- What will be the future of motorcycles?

Posted by Wild Ride Radio Crew August 5, 2017 Comments are off

Saving the scoot

What will be the future of motorcycles?

By Dallas Hageman, Wild Ride Radio Host

This is it. I feel this may be my last article. Not because Thunder Roads has wised up and finally decided to throw me to the street… no, I feel it may be my last due to the subject matter that will no doubt end in my tar and feathering like in Ye Olden Times; effectively rendering me a large, gangly chicken unable to write anymore. I will however, continue these pieces of provocative thought until such time occurs or the good Lord takes me (or the fine folks at Thunder Roads Colorado don’t decide throw me to the proverbial curb).

I am writing today about the future of motorcycles and you, as a human being which sucks air no doubt have an opinion on this as I’m sure a good many other things. Taking into consideration my outlook on this particular subject you may whole heartedly agree, or you may want me run out of town for this, but that is a risk I’m willing to take. Opinions are like butts, everyone has one and they usually smell the same. I am in no way different and from time to time tend to smell more than most. SO, in the name of stinking up the atmosphere, let’s dive in to the future of motorcycles.

For the past 10 years or so the large motorcycle manufacturers have been wising up to a very real and present danger, the lack of interest with two wheels. Granted, sales of motorcycles have grown exponentially over the recent years but looking at the industry from a so-called 30 thousand foot view, trouble is a brewin’ on the two wheel front. How do I know… Well, being in the position I am on-air and speaking with people from all over the globe, I have had the pleasure of making numerous and high level connections deep within the industry. Now, before you think I intend to point fingers in efforts to bolster my argument please know I would not dare expose any of the names or what position they hold for the sake of anonymity. I will say though, that every single one of them is worried to the point of a knot in their stomach about the coming five to ten years. Ever. Single. One. Obviously these individuals wouldn’t open up to the general populace about such worries but I can assure you that behind the iron curtains, in the hallowed halls of corporate boardrooms, there are numerous heated and intense meetings discussing what can be done to attract new and younger riders. The reason for these knockdown, drag-out inter office panic attack meetings? Attracting the coveted potential new riders just isn’t happening on a level that will provide a continuous flow of revenue as each manufacturer has been enjoying in the past.

It seems that no matter what each of the big motorcycle makers concoct (whether in marketing, new fancy-pantsy financing or new products), the industry is continuing to grey. I’ve spoken with many leaders in dealerships who confirm the only large and unencumbered segment of populace which continues to purchase the same models year after year are aging and dying off at a rate that is overtaking the lackluster interest of fresh, young blood.  The tactics which have been dredged from the depths of desperation to drum up new business are not taking flight like most manufacturers would hope and in turn the industry is beginning to go down a slow and painful spiral.


Who’s to blame?

And at this point of the article I plan to (but hopefully not) alienate my entire audience. I do believe that the blame for a shrinking interest in motorcycles lies on everyone, myself included. It would be easy to point at the millennial generation. Think about it… currently these men, women seem to be the most entitled, whiny, limp backboned and pathetic generation of kids these United States has ever churned into existence… or are they? Studies are beginning to show that Millennials are much different than their predecessors in a couple of ways that are flying under the radar. One way that differs is the lack of debt they want to incur. For the most part Millennials are laden with HUGE amounts of nearly worthless student loan debt, so much so it’s to the point of soul crushing. Naturally, not wanting to pile even more debt to the mountain that is already on their shoulders, they look to inexpensive was to enjoy their hobbies and lifestyles… and really, who could blame them?! Furthermore this same generation could not care one iota about name brand anything. From clothing to food to motorcycles, they want cheap and they want quality. Now, given what I just told you about said younger people does it not stand to reason most motorcycle manufacturers in the U.S. will be dead in the water under 15 years unless tactics are changed in a hurry? These manufacturers have enjoyed a plethora of years where big, expensive, name brand baggers rule the roads. Now that the younger generation is opening up their pocketbooks for naked type scramblers these same manufacturers are finding what they have to offer just won’t cut it for most newcomers into the market (at least in the future).

Millennials aren’t the only ones causing motorcycles to suffer a sluggish decline into the new era however. The perpetuation of anything, whether religious beliefs, way of life, manners, hobbies, etc. begins with parents. You see if you want kids to take an interest in your interests you have to train them. You have to take them and show them the ropes. Instead of recommending kids for car seats until they are 16 years old (no, unfortunately I’m not making that up) why not put them on the back of your bike and take a trip around the block. And, on a side note, if other parents on the block don’t like how you raise your kids may I suggest giving them a long, pointy stick to place firmly in their backside. Raise your kids to love adventure, to take life by the handlebars and actually LIVE, not just exist. It’s parent’s job to raise their kids the right way and unfortunately this day and age not many are doing that. Yes it takes effort to raise a kid, much more than creating them… but if you have them it’s your responsibility to raise them the right way. If we start raising kids with a wonderment of motorcycles then motorcycles will live on far into the future, if we don’t we’ll get more of the same “participation award” entitled brats running around just ripe for a butt kicking.

At the risk of bloviating too much more in this article I do want to now turn attention to the motorcycle industry… (you know, the ones that are worried sick about reaching younger riders). The motorcycle industry as a whole has been digging their grave for years. It’s not due to innovation however. In fact, I think that most manufacturers, yes even Harley Davidson, have come out with some really impressive pieces of machinery recently and the technology that is wrapped up into a small frame and two wheels is nothing short of leprechaun magic. I mean heck, there are motorcycles now that run on glorified double A batteries… we as a collective ridership have come light-years by way of technology, unfortunately that technology has a hefty price tag. That price tag ladies and gentlemen, is where the grave is the deepest.
With the outrageous prices motorcycles are going for nowadays it’s no wonder younger people (and even budget conscious older folks) are turning away from them. Look, I love motorcycle (obviously) but even I wouldn’t drop 45k +/- on a new ride. It’s not just that, but the parts, accessories and everything else are so overpriced that any one daring to enter the “new culture” of riding better have a big Santa Claus style sack of cash before waltzing through their nearest dealership. People, Millennials especially, are very attuned and cautious of taking on debt, and since they don’t care about brand they are creating a moving target for manufacturers to hit. While the Board of Directors of major motorcycle manufacturers turn every which way to attract new clientele I feel, from a consumer standpoint, what is needed is very, very simple.

What can be done

HA! There’s the million dollar (or billion dollar) question. I won’t pretend to know all the answers and if I did know them I would sell them to the highest bidder, buy and island and build a motorcycle racetrack on it to live out the rest of my days. Believe me, any company that figures out what to do first will be the new (or defending) champion for the next 30 – 50 years. It will be akin to the moment Harley buried Indian when receiving a military contract for their bikes some 80 +/- years ago. Now I know that some of this is above my pay grade but honestly, I genuinely feel that people can overthink processes, procedures and economics from time to time. So here it is, my take on what needs to be done to save the industry. Ready for it… Drop prices. Like… right now. That’s it. Simple right? Take smaller dividends on portfolios, cut out some of the fat the companies have no doubt been living off of like life support for 20 years. Slash prices on everything from new motorcycles to shoe laces and people will respond. Price and quality drive this new industry.

In summation and for those of you who still may think I’m a total idiot, or maybe that I don’t know what I’m talking about; let’s bring up one particular motor manufacturer that did this. Remember during the recession when all but one of the big car manufacturers were sucking off the teat of Big Government? What did Ford Motor Company do? That’s right, they gave employee pricing to customers and it was one of the biggest windfalls in the company’s history. Others thought they were crazy and would lose all types of business but Ford offered good quality at a low price. VIOLA! They did so well that DURING the recession the New York Times reported that the car maker would pay bonuses of $5,000 and more to its hourly workers (and a year before that the same paper was sounding the death bell on auto makers). Quality and price never… NEVER go out of style. So, motorcycle manufacturers, you want to win in business and attract younger people to your products? Offer good deals coupled with great financing and top quality products… Stop the price gouging and start employee pricing.

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