Did you ever wonder which models a motorcycle company could drop? The current business environment makes it easy to keep doing things the same way, trim the fat, get more efficient, ride it out. How do you go charging off in new directions if you have no extra money to invest in designing and building something new? Why not drop a model from the lineup? Why not 2 models? Free up the money and build something new, instead.
The cautious view says the old model is still selling and costs are already amortized in the long production run so the profits come with minimal effort. No one will fault you for doing that, it’s a good safe strategy, but what happens when things heat up and the economy gets rolling again? Well, then you start looking ahead and coming up with new designs, build a few prototypes, take them to the shows, get customer feedback, refine the design, finalize the design, start production and get them out to the dealers and hope the economy hasn’t cooled off or tastes haven’t changed.
When times are good and motorcycles are selling, you can take forever to roll out a new model, Yamaha can bring out the new V-Max or Honda can bring out the Fury in their own sweet time, Harley can tweak a few designs here and there and everyone keeps right on making big bucks, unless things crash and the long lead time catches you flat footed and you introduce a new model when the buzz has moved on and money is tight.
Smart companies might want to redirect some of their capital into a new model or two, right now, when everyone else is hunkered down. You can bet some small companies are working hard to catch them off guard and if the recession eases up, they’ll be ready, but the big guys will still be moving a lot of tired iron. I wonder how different it might be if those big companies were looking outside their usual box, building something no one would expect, getting ready to drop a model that still sells so they can introduce something new.
Don’t use the recession as an excuse. Stay confident and move forward, if a model is tired, drop it. Get out of your comfort zone and push hard, build bikes like you mean it. Commit to bringing your customers the best motorcycles you know how to build. Don’t assume there’s no money in small bikes or big bikes or standards or wherever you don’t usually go.
Ask too many customers what they want and they’ll tell you all sorts of things and if you follow what they say, you may lose your shirt. Customers may have no idea until they see it and their jaws drop and their checkbooks come out. Supply can create its own demand if the product is right. Who demanded an iPod before they saw one? How about an iPhone? Who asked Honda 50 years ago to bring that little motorcycle to the US? Break the mold, turn your best designers loose and don’t play it safe. C’mon, show us your best work, we’re waiting and we’ll be great customers and tell everyone to buy.
Or you could just play it safe and hope things will improve, get through the day, wait for the recovery, and turn out the same old stuff, … yeah, that’s the spirit.