Is the speed of technical change making model years a thing of the past?
A few days ago, Yamaha, (excuse me, “Star”) announced the new 2010 Vmax. If you look at the photo above you’ll instantly notice the change, … it’s red. The old 2009 Vmax was black, it looks like Star is continuing the tradition of the old model that ran for decades with little more than color changes year after year. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s funny how everyone is accustomed to “new” models when there’s no real need for one and nothing to add. The Kawasaki Concours is another example of a decades long model with almost no changes until 2008 when a truly new model was introduced, now being followed with color changes.
When Harley introduced their “nine new models” a couple of weeks ago, they caught some flak because it was essentially a parts bin operation, something they’ve done for years. I’m not sure why Harley is often singled out for criticism when all of the manufacturers do it. As I mentioned in a comment, maybe if they didn’t make such a big deal of all of the new models it would have been less of an issue for some, but the question for everyone is, why do we need model years in the first place?
Some bikes have been initially titled as a particular year because that’s when they were sold though they were just unchanged versions of the same bike sold the year before. Manufacturers seem pressured to come up with something “new” even if the current model is fine. The whole business is built around customer expectations of new models. I’m not even sure if we could change the process without some major upheaval in how bikes are sold, registered and marketed.
Technical changes are often introduced mid year, you need to look at production dates to know if your bike has the new wiring change or brake caliper or whatever, so the arbitrary year designation serves little purpose, even when trying to discern how a bike is equipped. Cars, at least in years past, had major sheet metal changes every year, but bikes have far less bodywork, sometimes none at all, so what exactly is the point?
Few of us are concerned about buying a new model year computer or digital camera or cell phone or any other technical device, we just look for the new model when it appears. Some things change so fast they hardly last a year before being superseded by something new. It’s a feature or capability or design that builds interest and demand, not the “all new 2010” model.
Manufacturing motorcycles and cars is obviously different than making computers and cell phones but the concept of model years was set in motion when building vehicles was in its infancy. Maybe a model can be introduced and refined over time. Companies can work on a new model and launch it when it’s ready to add to the lineup or take the place of the old model. Instead of making a model year calendar change, perhaps we can focus on a real technical or design change that means something before saying a model is really new.
What do you think?