I think what happens is that we allow our country to be run by corporations, into a state of "comsumerism", where no taste really develops, no values ( morally speaking) , no tastes ( style speaking) becoming a nation of "new models" buy new, only late model....like spoiled bratts that throw away the latest toy, because they want a new toy....
The country is not run by corporations - however consumerism makes us feel like it is because we are constantly being oversold on stuff we don't need. If this country was really run by corporations then the tobacco industry would not have had to pay out the billions it has and face heavy government restriction. We are a nation of new models because fundamentally human nature is to be lazy, we place convinence over anything else important and let that dictate our buying choices.
I also think it is lack of continuity. Many younger buyers must be afraid to get stuck with a old looking bike ( style wise) that although cool, most companies do not follow productionwise. I mean, there is a Suzuki retro bike,a Honda one ,etc , but then there is none other made by the same Co, making it an isolated production.
In america motorcycles are regarded as a toy and not viable transportation. Our parents and even popular culture waive the banner of motorcycle accidents as an indication of the danger and disincentivise the use of a motorcycle as cheap transportation. Under this line of thinking the more time you spend on a bike the more likely you are to be killed or horribly maimed. If we attacked the problems of people driving cars with half as much zeal the roads in general would be much much safer.
Conversely we are also a culture built on speed and style, Our toys have to either look good or go fast. We are being oversold on these things. Young people don;t want utility, the want recognition and a feeling of self importance and will buy any crap that appeals to their self image. They want the fastest sport bike because they feel like a tough guy and fast sprot bikes come in an inherent amount of respect. Same with harleys and choppers, you can really look the part of a badass with either one. Since a motorcycle is viewed as a toy anyway - why get a boring toy.
Japanese bike makers are loosing out, many of the Harley riders would be japanese bike riders if given the chance. Most powerfull japanese bikes are made like road racers, and unless you are young, fit, most older riders might find it dificult to accomodate to the posture. So they take the only route , Harley posture friendly. Yes, there is some Japanese cruisers, but those are ussualy the high end big bucks ones. Better technology than Harley , but the prize, high, is not enough to counter act the allure Harley has among older people.
Japanese bike makers are not losing out at all. If anything they are making money hand over fist from the buyers who want harleys but suffer from sticker shock. A boulevard or a road star is 1/3 the price of a new harley, the japanese have created the entire metric crusier market and made it legitimate out of people turned away at harleys gates. The most expensive metric crusier costs about the same as an entry level big twin - talk about value.
People who have the money and want harleys will buy harleys, the only way they would be japanese bike riders is if harley burnt to the ground and all the existing bikes spontaneously combusted. Many harley owners have owned other bikes or currently own other bikes, but with their harley the were sold more than a motorcycle, they were sold an image. The rest of the market is made up of people who want harleys but can't afford them and people who have a completely different motorcycle image all together.
American pop culture plays a big part in consumerism, and american pop culture embraces harleys because they are american (this included indian too until they went belly up again).
That would change, if, a much better bike made w japanaese technology ( or British, like Triumph) could cost much less than the Harleys of comparable size and confort.
Have you checked the prices lately?
Triumph rocket III: Price $15,990 MSRP / Special Edition $15,990 MSRP
Star Stratoliner S: $16,580
Yamaha Warrior Midnight: $12,749
HD Fat Boy: $17,095
HD Softail Springer Classic: $17,595
Rocket III is over $2000 less than any closely comparable harley, the top of the line roadstar (not counting the goldwing like touring models) is only $1000 less than the midlevel softail models. And the warrior is $4000 less and is a technically superior motorcycle than any HD in every way (and has a huge aftermarket offering speed parts and wide tire conversions). So what would change?
BTW, Harleys have one of the best fit and finishes of any other mass produced bike in the market. On paint alone they are leaps and bounds ahead of the japanese in terms of quality.
Lastly, perhaps japanese bike makers are not willing to attack aggresively the only american bike market, the Harley market, for fear of alienating the american public , because if the japanese bike makers really wanted, they could erase harley from the Market.
The japanese bike manufacturers had their chance and they couldn't do it. In fact they killed the british motorcycle industry completely while they were trying but HD still went on. Now that HD is stronger than ever the japanese manufacturers couldn't kill HD if they physically bombed the factory. When a person buys a harley they buy an image they cannot get anywhere else, the japanese are getting close to having something similar with their own crusiers and definaltly with their sport bikes, and triumph has that again with the speed triple and bonneville. The japanese are not afraid of alienating the american public, their whole marketing campaigns are centered on selling a lot of units. Japanese dealers have the smallest profit margins to encourage their dealers to aggressivley push sales (what you thought they just wanted to sell those 18 year olds brand new R1s because they were being altrusitic?). What the japanese can't do, but would love to, is to successfully sell to the majority of the motorcycle market bikes based on practicality. Bikes in american are sold primarily as toys, you don't sell toys by touting their practical features (when was the last R1 or ZX10 commercial that focused on MPG or ease of Parking?).
A backlash against japanese bikes because of the demise of harley D would not be good for our beloved bikes, because the goverment would raise tariffs and taxes on japanese bikes to protect a dwindling harley company.
It is in the best interest of japanese bike makers in the US to allow Harley to grow in a controlled manner. That allows for coexistence.
there is a backlash against japanese bikes every day, from people who ride harleys and people who buy into the idea of american made (BTW some jap bikes are made here). It hasn't hurt sales any. In the 70's when that kind of backlash was high, HD was on the brink because thousands of CB, KZ, and GS motorcycles were being sold every month in this country. The government tried twice to bail out harley (ever wonder why some jap bikes are only 700ccs? anybody remember the speedo restrictions or the cc tarrifs of the 80s?) and it did not hurt japanese sales at all.
If Japanese bikemakers aggresively pushed the traditional framed bike, in cool models, and afordable prices, that would be the end of Harley.
Harley would be reduced to its most hard core followers, loosing the main stream riders. That would not be enough to maintain it in healthy form.
This is sort of what is happening now. Unfortunatly pop culture plays heavily into sales and as long as american pop culture supports harley then there will always be a market. Honda pushed the 919, kawasaki the z1000 - both practial bikes. Both have dismal sales. You can't sell the majority of america a practial bike.
Perhaps if there is a bike you really want, the best avenue is to import it directly. <Most parts are very similar ( engine wise) and the rest, can be purchased over the net.
Cafe racer DOHC CB750F
Edited by - jaimesix on Nov 04 2006 2:00:56 PM
There are plenty of bikes that if you wanted them you could never get them into the country legally. Emissions would prevent it alone, not counting safety standards. The US government has specific controls to prevent these things so even if you could physically get it here you couldn't use it on regular roads (i.e. you couldn't register it). Sure there are cracks to slip through but they are hard to find. There are plenty of Gammas and NS400Rs in this country that may never be registered.