It is generally felt that engine displacements are continuing to increase for cruisers, sport tourers and even hyper-bikes (such as the ZX-14 and the Hayabusa) with manufacturers planning new models with even more power. Custom V-twins, for instance, are already approaching 3,000cc, and cruiser manufacturers tend to follow the custom trend with ever-larger cruiser engines.
This trend, which is undoubtedly reflected in new model development already underway at several motorcycle manufacturers, runs directly into the reality of reduced motorcycle sales (for most segments) and higher gasoline prices. Together with economic conditions, the need for smaller displacement, more fuel efficient, but still fun motorcycles is apparent. What are the manufacturers to do?
If you look at Yamaha’s strategy with the new Star VMAX (announced by us on June 4, 2008), perhaps we can discern at least one strategy. The bike has a fairly hefty price tag ($17,990.00) and will be available by pre-order in very limited quantities. Star thus gets its flagship mega-horsepower machine on the road, but operates within the real constraints of the economy and gasoline price concerns.
Expect the next Gold Wing from Honda to employ some form of cylinder de-activation for fuel economy purposes. The popular Honda Accord automobile, of course, features a very sophisticated cylinder de-activation system in its V6 models which significantly boosts fuel economy.
In the end, do not expect flagship, high-performance, large displacement motorcycles to go away. The manufacturers will continue to develop them, but the marketing strategies will change, and the sheer number of vehicles sold in some of these markets will continue to decrease until economic conditions improve.