The Honda Gold Wing and the BMW K 1200 LT currently dominate the luxury touring market both in Europe and in the United States. Furthermore, no other manufacturer seems poised to challenge in this category. Why is this? Will it change?
There are, perhaps, a few reasons for this circumstance. First, and foremost, Honda and BMW have more tradition, and experience, in the luxury touring category than any other manufacturer. As a result, the new Gold Wing (introduced last year) and the K 1200 LT are both extremely good motorcycles — well engineered and featuring design elements reflecting their manufacturers’ experience in the category. Better handling, in particular, defies their luxury tourer status. The R&D costs necessary to challenge these machines would be tremendous for any other manufacturer.
Most manufacturers are focusing much more on the sport tourer category — where they can apply their sport bike technology and, in some cases, engines to develop new machines relatively cheaply. Engines purpose-built for sport touring are increasingly rare, although both Honda and Yamaha (FJR1300, ST1300 and Interceptor) utilize such engines.
The bottom line is that smaller manufacturers may find the cost of entry into the luxury tourer category prohibitive, and, absent manufacturer consolidation, Honda and BMW may dominate this category for the foreseeable future. Only Yamaha would seem to have the resources necessary to complete head-to-head with a new design in this category, but we have heard no rumors of anything like this in development.