My story about the Harley Davidson strike led to an interesting exchange about dealers getting a backlog of bikes in their inventory they did not want in the first place. It happens all the time and results when dealers must order a particular mix of motorcycles, across the company’s product line rather than just the specific models the dealer is sure to sell. This sounds like the manufacturer is just pushing bikes for the sake of getting them out the door and on dealer floors but the problem starts a lot sooner in the decision about what to build. If the assembly line is turning out slow moving models they have to go somewhere, but even if the lines readjust what is being produced, there was a lot of time involved from the initial design and engineering of that model, producing the parts, contracting with suppliers and the costs have to be recovered. Also, if you just turn off the line until inventory adjusts, a lot of folks making that model are out of work so it’s a delicate balance. What the companies need is a better crystal ball to tell them what will sell two or three years in the future so they build the right bike instead of dogs no one wants.
This is an old problem but like everything else today, you have to make corrections a lot faster or someone else will fill the void where you missed the target, but the advantage today is companies can find out a lot more a lot faster if they listen. Market research can take place over days or weeks instead of months.
Websites like The Kneeslider get plenty of visits from industry insiders trying to get a hint of what’s on your mind. Sometimes we get comments directly from companies or something is sent our way to see what you think. The point is that you can send your thoughts to these companies when you comment here. Thoughtful comments can make a difference.
When companies like Bombardier take a chance with a new category of vehicles like the Can-Am Spyder, you can be sure there was a lot of looking and listening beforehand, combined with a lot of excellent creative thinking and follow through.
Smaller builders can benefit, too, by showing a concept and getting feedback, sometimes finding out a certain design detail has an issue they didn’t think about. No small shop could do that before, if they wanted to build a small run of bikes, they built what they thought was right, held their breath and went for it. Now, fast feedback can help steer clear of major obstacles and hint at unfilled needs or they may find no demand for what they want to build saving a lot of money in the process.
A star designer or idea guy is always nice to have on board but it’s hard for that individual to have a series of big hits and small shops can often produce a winner or two then go stale if they are not listening intently to what customers are thinking.
The days of ”not invented here” so I won’t listen are long over except in dying companies. Any manufacturer that expects to succeed in the future motorcycle market, or any market needs to listen very carefully, because customers are getting very demanding but their demands are often very informative and useful and contain seeds of ideas that could start a lot of new products.
On the customer side, you no longer have to wonder if the companies hear you when you speak. They hear you, which is another reason to think before you speak and make those words count. Your dream motorcycle might come down the assembly line a little bit sooner and dealers will be more than happy to keep them in stock.