You build it, I’ll buy it. … Really? It’s that simple? I can’t imagine why motorcycle manufacturers aren’t packing the showrooms just listening to the virtual suggestion box found on hundreds of web sites. Log in, check the comments, send the specs to engineering, start taking orders.
In the virtual world of computers, there’s little need for raw materials, maybe a bit of software, a fair amount of knowledge and skill, perhaps, and often lots of time, but there’s no iron and steel, no truckloads of parts, no assembly line workers and factory buildings, no CNC machines, welders and paint booths, no EPA, NHTSA and DOT regulations and no dealers spread across the country or around the world demanding the next big winner. Although virtual world risk is real, failed products sit on a hard drive, while in the real world, those marketplace losers sit in warehouses or dealer showrooms gathering dust while real money is tied up until they somehow get sold. The real world takes real guts.
With today’s dicey economy, it’s easy to understand why factories go slow, one really bad introduction and you might not recover, but you can’t sit still doing nothing, either, so how do we move forward? For the major motorcycle manufacturers operating under the old model where you design a new line up, crank up production and fill dealer showrooms, that’s a problem, so maybe it’s time to change the model.
For businesses in the real world, demand for a product isn’t how many people say “I want one” or “You build it and I’ll buy it,” the only demand that counts is backed up with cash, it’s someone with both the ability and willingness to pay. No money means no demand, just wishes and dreams and there’s no profit in catering to dreamers.
How can companies filter out the dreamers and big talkers, separating the “I’d buy that” crowd from the “Who do I make the check out to?” crowd. Those groups may overlap, but the second group, the one that counts, is a lot smaller.
In a previous article about the Warboy 883XWL, a Sportster designed to look like an old Harley WLA, I said in the comments, “If HD wasn’t sure they would sell, they could show one, offer them as an exclusive short run model and take orders before production started.” That comment was about Harley, but this applies to ANY motorcycle company. Any company planning on staying in the business is going to have to build something so why not build a prototype, show it around and offer a limited production run to be started after prepaid orders or sizable deposits toward an order have come in? The talkers with no real intention or ability to buy are unlikely to put real money down so you’re filtering them out and what you have left is actual demand. If demand is large and steady, beyond what a limited run will supply, the company can crank up production and then introduce the “Special” as a regular model in the lineup. The old method of concept bikes generating interest and then taking years before going into production, if they ever do, separates the buzz and excitement of the concept from an actual bike in the showroom by so many years, by the time it shows up, very few want one.
Some of the new small cars coming out have gone with something very similar, electric motorcycles, too, I can’t see any reason it wouldn’t work with any type of motorcycle. A company can take risks beyond the usual small changes from year to year and try something really out of the box. If no one is willing to put up the front money for an order, the company isn’t out enormous sums on a loser. In this economy, the company doesn’t have to wonder if the customer can pay because they already did.
I think the pre-order before production plan is a good one. If I knew a prototype had been produced and it worked well, I’d be very amenable to the idea, how about you? Would you put down your hard earned cash for a bike that hasn’t been built yet?