As we said yesterday, the mailbag is great reading and Tom S., who sent in the idea for our post, had another closely related thought with equal merit. First, let’s let Tom explain it:
You’re walking through a Walmart Supercenter, and there, between Automotive and Sporting Goods, is a small motorcycle. The decal on it says it’s a Briggs and Stratton Sting.
It’s prep’ed and ready to ride, minus gasoline. It comes with a packet to take to the local tax office to get your title and plates, an information sheet with companies that will insure it, and another sheet that gives the locations of every Briggs and Stratton authorized repair center in America. It’s priced at $999. There are DOT full face helmets in matching colors on the shelf next to it, along with the ten most common repair/maintanence parts. You roll it up to check out, they scan it (which activates the warranty), you pay (cash, check or charge) and roll it out the door. Push it across the parking lot to Walmart’s gas station, fill up and ride home.
Why not? Sears and Montgomery Wards did this 40+ years ago. Lowes and Home Depot are selling $3000+ riding tractors in just this way today. My local Walmart is full of young families, working poor and Hispanic “guest workers” that could improve their lives with some low cost personal transportation – but would never walk into an enthusiast oriented motorcycle shop.
If you’re already a rider and especially if you have many years of experience, this sort of idea will have little appeal to you but this isn’t aimed at you. Rewind the memory tapes and think about being 15 or 16 and really wanting wheels. Personal mobility is a wonderful thing. How about those young families Tom mentions? Can’t afford a reliable used car but a brand new low cost small displacement motorcycle, maybe. Look around you, there are many other folks out there waiting at bus stops that could make great use of something like this.
Is the world so different that the 50cc Hondas from the 60’s have no place? Things have certainly moved beyond them following the customers as they grew up but what about new customers? None of these are freeway cruisers but many people could get along without that and these bikes could actually be a little fun for new riders. My Briggs and Stratton minibike, when I was 14 or 15 got a ton of use and I had a blast. The “Oh so cool” crowd will look down their nose at these things but the “have to get to work” crowd might like them and be very thankful they’re available.
Maybe we’ve come full circle and there is a low end market waiting again. Wal-Mart is a zero intimidation place for people to buy one of these. Some details of the process would have to be worked out but I think something like this has a lot of potential. Would it work? Who knows? But how much would it actually cost a major motorcycle company like Honda to try what we suggested yesterday? How easy it would be for Wal-Mart to try what we’re suggesting today. If it bombs, at least you know. But if it works, …
Update: A few more thoughts: Don’t look at this as expanding the motorcycle market, think of this as an entirely new and separate market for similar products. Compare heavy duty commercial gym equipment and home exercise equipment. There are some crossover users but many home users would never set foot in a big gym yet they use their equipment frequently and may spend a lot of money on it.
This isn’t the motorcycle market, it’s the transportation market. There are low income families who can’t afford a single used car let alone two, but could afford two of these motorcycles for both adults to get to their separate jobs. This isn’t high bling leather and chrome, this is daily short commutes and trips to the doctor, pick up a few groceries and visit with friends miles away. New capabilities otherwise unavailable or on someone else’s schedule.