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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Boom! European Moto-Industry Comeback Blazes Onwards


There’s a lot of gloom-and-doom thinking in the world today, which combined with my appetite for zombie fiction keeps me up nights. Maybe I should work for a European motorcycle manufacturer: bikes from the Old World have never been in such demand, making me think we’re in a golden age for Euro-bike fans.

Don’t believe me? Well, in 2013 BMW Motorrad had its best sales year in its 90-year history, the third record year in a row. The division sold 115,215 (an 8 percent bump over 2012) motorcycles and scooters (Gott in Himmel!) worldwide and 14,100 (17 percent more than 2012) in the USA—the largest market behind the Vaterland itself. The most successful models were the R1200GS—25,000 of 30,000 sold were the new water-cooled version—and the F800GS/F700GS, which sold 17,000. Superbike sales were probably a bit of a disappointment—less than 10,000 total, including the megabucks HP4—although BMW probably sells more S1000RRs than Ducati does Panigales.


At least two other European factories are indisputable successes as well. KTM is introducing a plethora of acclaimed models, including the outstanding 1190 Adventure (I know it’s outstanding because I rode one—stay tuned for a full test) and an exciting line of sporty Singles, thanks to the new partnership with Indian factory Bajaj Auto, Ltd. In November, KTM North America reported it was the “fastest-growing” motorcycle company in the North American market, with a 28.8-percent increase in sales for the year-to-date over 2012. In fact, KTM beat BMW in 2013 with 123,589 units sold, a 15.6 percent increase. And Triumph Motorcycles, Ltd, still a small company, reported it sold over 50,000 motorcycles globally in November, the strongest numbers since John Bloor resurrected  the company in the 1980s.

Italian companies are having mixed success as well. Ducati has introduced some exciting product, but has reported sales slightly down since Volkswagen purchased it. But MV Agusta is coming back strong, with an affordable range of middleweight Triples, and Piaggio group has had some luck with its popular V7 series, as well as ongoing strong sales with Vespa scooters.


It’s interesting the European factories are growing sales and crowing their successes with faster, bigger, more expensive models while the Japanese factories seem to focus on cheaper, smaller, simpler low-performance models for developing markets. This success seems to blend traditional Euro-bike virtues—performance, handling, design, craftsmanship—with innovations in global manufacturing (i.e. manufacturing parts, components and even entire motorcycles in low-cost labor countries) and distribution. But can it last? Are the European companies just gobbling up the last dollars Baby Boomers (and their First-World counterparts) will be spending at the tail ends of their long motorcycling careers? Or will these smaller, more flexible factories sustain their success by continuing to foresee (and spur) demand to keep supplying the product wealthier economies crave?

Gabe Ets-Hokin is the Editor of City Bike Magazine, and a frequent freelance contributor to


  1. John says:

    It also seems to me that the Europeans listen to their customers more.

    Honda did with the VFRs whatever the hell it wanted and people were loyal, up until Shamu, but the thing was, they were always buying one, going out for a better windshield, buying bags, putting on Helibars. And Honda took apparently no note of this.

    But, Triumph has the Sprint, BMW has the F800ST, so what did they do? They made them more upright, more comfortable, better sport tourers.

    I don’t think Honda even has a way of contacting them.

  2. Dave says:

    ” In fact, KTM beat BMW in 2013 with 123,589 units sold, a 15.6 percent increase”

    Something doesn’t jive. If BMW’s sales were close to KTM’s, then together they account for nearly half of the North American market, according to industry reporting that puts new moto units in the US @ right around 500k in 2012. I’ll go out on a lim and say that’s impossible.

  3. Mr.Mike says:

    I grew up on Japanese bikes from the 70’s and onward and while I currently ride a 650 VStrom its the European bikes that actually excite me. My VStrom has 40k miles on it and when I replace it I will probably leave the far East and never return.

  4. Vrooom says:

    Many of the comments seem to indicate that BMW is selling more bikes than Japan. Not true per a quick google. I believe these statistics only include bikes 250cc or larger, so they are certainly missing a large portion of Asian market sales, where a truly huge number of bikes are moved, none the less it’s something:
    Honda 141,800 (70.2% growth)
    Suzuki 173,319 (116% growth)
    Yamaha 173,918 (104,9% “)
    Kawasaki 72,651 (94.7% “)
    BMW 115,191 (8.3% Growth)
    KTM 123,859 (15.6% “)

    Growth numbers are over 2012 volumes. KTM claims to be the fastest growing motorcycle brand by combining 3 years data.

    • Gronde says:

      Thanks for clearing that up.

      • thoppa says:

        Globally, Honda sold 16.8 MILLION motorcycles in 2013, and that’s growth of over 8% from 2012. All of Europe’s brands combined still have a long way to go to catch just Honda. The vast majority of global sales are for bikes under 250cc. But is volume everything ? I think net profit and brand value are just as important for any manufacturer’s long term success.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “net profit”

          and there it is. the Holy Grail. the only thing the hovering predators (read CPA’s) care about.

    • John says:

      But what about dollar value? BMW doesn’t have a bike under, what, $8000? The Japanese brands sell mainly bikes under $2000.

  5. RichBinAZ says:

    I’m guessing 50% of the people at the recent bike show tour had silver hair.

  6. Karlsbad says:

    Oddly enough when I look at bikes that could make it into my garage along side with what I already have, other than the new Ninja 1000 and the new V-Strom most all the bikes I desire are European. BMW, KTM, Aprillia, Moto Guzzi, MV, and Ducati are really building some desirable motorcycles. Upright ergos stellar performance and for the most part much better reliability then ever imagined in a European motorcycle. what’s not to like.
    Why be hunched over a full on sport bike when all the performance and handling MOST riders will ever or could ever use is available in a barko lounger adventure bike or dare I say UEM (formerly UJM)style motorcycle. 100+ HP, ABS brakes, Traction control… are commonplace on most bikes now, and standards today weigh less than full on sport bikes of 5 years ago and I have not even touched on how good riding gear has become. From Helmets to Boots GPS to gloves we are in great times as motorcycle enthusiasts.
    What a sport!!!

  7. John says:

    To me, a lot of the issue is that most motorcycles are sold based on image, not substance, so when you go to check it out, you quickly find it isn’t for you, no matter how much you lusted for it from the pictures. A perfect example was the Futura. Everyone was hot and bothered. But it really wasn’t a VFR killer or much else. It certainly felt painfully uncomfortable from my brief sit on it and never took it any further. Aprilia and KTM don’t even try to make comfortable, useful motorcycles. Ducati sorta tries maybe a little. But, a company makes a comfortable, practical bike, like the FJR, Ninja 1000 or the BMW 1200 GS and people line up to buy it. But even then, a lot of bikes are practically killed by the press for not being ideal while many crotch rockets are praised as “near perfection”. I don’t think manufacturers even try to know their market. No one has ever asked me what kind of bike I like, but lots of people tell me what kind I SHOULD like. A lot of motorcycles are too big for smaller guys and then they make the “small” version often just as big, or make it an ADV bike so feel they need to jack it up again. Affordable shaft bikes went away, even though they used to be rather popular. I think the motorcycle companies are secretly trying to sell a) bikes that will be wrecked and replaced and b) trying to sell other bikes that won’t ever be used and will sit in a garage for most of its 20 year life, but who cares since they got paid.

    Triumph, BMW and Ducati do seem to know their customers best and make a wide variety of solid models with relatively few engines. KTM also knows its customers, but doesn’t seem to want other kinds of customers. Honda just throws stuff out there, Yamaha is timid most of the time. Suzuki isn’t even trying and Kawasaki tries to get 10 years out of everything and doesn’t listen to customers when they beg for variants or new versions of great bikes, but succeeds anyway because at least some of their bikes hit their targets rather well and thank god because it won’t be updated for 10 years.

    • william says:

      You have some good comments that seem to fit my motorcycle experience as well. Although you seem to have more knowledge about the larger bikes than me. I stay on the smaller engine, offroad, dual sport side of things. I find it interesting I find similar issues as you even though the bikes I am looking at might be a different type. Unless you also ride offroad and dual sport.
      Too much hype about bikes I don’t want. “KTM doesn’t want other kinds of customers” that’s sad but true. I have been looking at KTM’s but so tall, and uncomfortable seats with no padding. The “small” version category has always been ignored for as long as my motorcycle life has been. I bought a “small” version 2 years ago and I knew it would be low end but it was worse than I expected, even with a new aftermarket shock tuned for me on the back. Kawasaki not listening to customers and changing things is spot on. I have had some great times on Kawasaki bikes, but it makes me wonder if they even know what they are doing in the USA market. Changes to the klx250 were just so small. That’s all they can do? really? How did they make it in the first place then.

      • John says:

        I agree on off road bikes too. Everything is either a 250 or a 650. What happened to 350s and 450s that aren’t race bikes? The Kawasaki Super Sherpa was ancient, but useful. Why isn’t there a 350cc Super Sherpa? Why not a dirt bike with a 32″ or 33″ seat? It’s certainly possible. Just take a KLR and make it 90% of the size in every direction. Cut an inch off the suspension. Maybe 19″ front wheel and 17″ rear. Drop in a smaller 450cc engine. The KLX would be great as a 350-450cc. The CRF250L could be stroked to a square engine and that would magically make it a 350cc, better for hauling its bulk around. If you’re 6’3″ and weigh 250lbs, you need a big bike with a 36″-38″ seat. If you’re 5’6″ and 150lbs, you do not need a big bike with a 36″-38″ seat.

        Besides, motorcycles used to be physically smaller, lower and had really thick seats. WTF happened? I don’t want the world, I want ONE DP bike with a 350-450cc engine and a 34″ or lower seat height. Doesn’t exist. The KLX is about as close as you can get to that, but it’s still a bit small engined if you need to get on a highway for even brief amounts of time.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          You can lower a DR650 to the Asian market ride height without purchasing any new parts. Add a low seat to it and I bet it sits at 32 inches. Maybe even lower. That is as close as you are going to get to what you are looking for off the showroom floor, and it would still be a little heavy weight wise. I hope Honda started a fight with its new 250L. We might see some better choices in this segment in the near future.

          • John says:

            Yeah, but don’t want something that heavy, would be happier with a midsized dirt bike. I may actually try to get a Freeride and just do whatever it takes to lower it. The KTM Enduro 690 would be just awesome in a smaller format. What strikes me really is the vast wasteland between 250cc and 650cc. Seems just flat out strange to me. Not suggesting that we need 20 bikes in that category, but maybe 2 would be good.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            It is an abandoned segment. Only expensive options from KTM and Husky, all with mile-high seat heights. Even the DRZ 400 sits 37 inches off the ground, and it is expensive for what it is in my opiniom.

      • John says:

        BTW, I road the BMW 450X and I could NOT touch with either feet if the bike was upright. I had to do a running jump and dismount. It was pretty funny, almost. But though it was a nice bike, it felt like it was on stilts. To me, it felt awkward and unstable compared to a lower bike.

    • Guu says:

      ” Affordable shaft bikes went away, even though they used to be rather popular.”

      So did many other obsolete technical solutions like drum brakes. Shaft drives really don’t make any sense since chains are so reliable, cheap and efficient. And they allow easy adjustment of the final drive ratio, which is really important since most bikes are over-geared to meet sound regulations.

      • John says:

        Totally disagree. Many, many the over 1000cc have shaft.

        My Ascot was $2600. My Sabre was $3600. The CX500. These bikes were not more expensive than other bikes, at least not notably. I think the Sabre was only $100-$200, but have half a dozen other ground breaking technologies.

        Also, since my Sabre got nearly 50mpg, and my Ascot easily got 60, it’s hard to make a claim that shafts are energy inefficient.

        The new NC700x would sell better with shaft drive, IMO. If shaft drive were a bad thing, BMW, Honda, Triumph, Moto Guzzi, etc would abandon it on their flagship bikes.

        • Dave says:

          Chains and manual shift are big turn-offs to potential US riders who don’t ride now. Honda is pushing at it with the auto option on the NC700x but I think it will take something a little more in line with what they find when they look for what’s already cool and accepted in the moto market. The Aprilia Mama was a better example (and faster than the light, more powerful Shiver around the track) but it needs to come from the big-4.

      • John says:

        Also, my shaft drive bikes were more reliable, had less maintenance and were quieter and not by a small margin.

        • Guu says:

          You do realize that those bikes of yours are from the 80’s and even 70’s? I’n not disputing the merits of shaft drive then, but it doesn’t hold those advantages today – not against todays sealed chains or against belt drives. Some market segments still demand it, but not really for true performance reasons as much as for sentimental reasons.

          • John says:

            I’m sorry, what is the huge breakthrough in chains that I missed?

            Why don’t cars use chains?

          • mickey says:

            Yea… There are no govt. safety investigations into chain failures

            ADVrider > Bikes > GSpot > GS Boxers
            NHSTA Opens Investigation into BMW Final Drive Failures

          • Guu says:

            Yes you did. Materials and sealing technology has moved by leaps and bounds. Have you experince with modern chains (or belts)? I do. I also have experience with some of the bikes you mention and modern shaft drives. You wondered why affordable shaft drives went away and I told you why. You maty not like it, but those are the facts.

            Modern (FWD) cars have their crank in line with their drive axles. This too has changed (for many of the same reasons as above) since the 70’s…

          • Wayne says:

            Chains STILL require lubrication, adjustment, and throw messy lubricant around. Excellent for off road and race replicas, not so much for other machines. I sure don’t miss the chain from my VFR800 on my VFR1200.
            I’d like to believe in belts – however, high performance capability, packaging, and efficiency, along with replacement complexity (swing arm removal) are compromised.

          • mickey says:

            Wayne…Shaft drives systems are not without their own maintenance and lubrication requirements. Changing the final drive fluid, lubing of the drive splines, replacement of the universal joints, seals, system is without its advantages and drawbacks. The risks and rewards make sense on bikes designed to criss cross the country on a regular basis, otherwise there are less expensive more efficient systems available.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Jeez, which bike requires a swingarm removal for a belt change? I can change the belt on my Buell in less than 30 minutes.

          • Guu says:

            I wish every bike required swingarm removal on the first service, then it would get done. All the factories use way too little grease in the bearings and obviously grease nipples have gone extinct. The bearings are toast by the time you have to do any drivetrain mantenance, shaft, belt or chain. Of course most people don’t notice the slowly deteriorating performance and do no maintenance on any of the chassis bearings. By the time they do notice they have real handling issues and high replacement costs.

      • Norm G. says:

        we just talkin’ ’bout shaft.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        I don’t follow. There are many shaft-driven bikes available today – high-end bikes. So long as a particular model isn’t oriented towards a the upper end of the performance spectrum, on or off-road, a shaft is a decent solution. It certainly isn’t as light or versatile as a chain, but fans love them because they are quiet, clean and don’t need attention on a 3000 mile trip.

        • Guu says:

          What don’t you follow? John wondered why there are no affordable shaft bikes. I told him what I believe (as somewhat educaded person on the matter) to be the case. Nobody was arguing that there are no shaft bikes. Its a fact that shaft and the assosiated gears add significant costs over chain and belt drives. In todays market its a luxyry item, if you will. Like RWD in cars. In this way the market is very different from what it was decades ago.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I was referring to your comment implying that shafts are obsolete and that they don’t make any sense. If the comment was to be taken in the context of they don’t make any sense on inexpensive / budget bikes, then I completely agree.

        • mickey says:

          Probably the reason they are not on mid class bikes anymore is people don’t tour on mid class bikes anymore

          • Guu says:

            F. ex. BMW F800ST/GT. No, they don’t have shafts and I don’t know if anybody wishes they had.

        • Cory says:

          I find that chain maintenance on a bike with a centerstand really isn’t difficult on a 3000 mile trip. I am not saying that I have a preference of chain vs shaft, but I don’t find chains to be some onerous beast that takes away from my enjoyment of a longer journey. Plus, I have a Scottoiler, which means on a trip, my attention on a longer excursion consists of a quick tug for tension and a glance for excessive dirt and debris.

          On the other hand, the required maintenance of a shaft drive, which occurs around 20,000 miles, is (at least for me) a bit complicated. At 20,000 miles, I am more than capable of changing front and rear sprockets, as well as a the chain, and takes about an hour for me—hour and a half if beer is involved.

          Chain or shaft (or belt) is not a deal breaker for me either way, unless the type of final-drive is ill-suited for the particular motorcycle I am considering.

      • tori zimbalis says:

        I view the shaft drive idea as the same as the pushrod valve train…perfectly suited for its application and perhaps even advantageous in some long distance..touring etc

        However…taking in account of the design of the modern motorcycle…calculated flex…controlled fill alum die cast frames….swing arms of intricate shape to accommodate elaborate exhaust….weight concerns…..and particularly unsprung weight

        they may be suited for a large standard motorcycle…but have no place on a performance/sports oriented bike

  8. skybullet says:

    Let’s see, fewer dealers (less retail outlets and service), higher cost (limits customer base) and they are increasing sales faster than the Asian brands. Why? Customers will pay more and accept less service for a product that is believed to be better. The last two bikes I bought are a KTM SMT and a BMW F800GS. Not that the similar Honda-Yamaha-Suzuki-Kawasaki are bad, the KTM and BMW are just better performing in my opinion.

    • Guu says:

      What does it matter to the customer near a dealer that there isn’t any in some remote place? I would bet that the dealer coverage of the European brands is sufficient for most of the riding population. As for people living in the woods? That’s just one of the compromices you make.

  9. takehikes says:

    I like some of the European stuff a lot. typically though my pocketbook is slim so I have to turn my eyes elsewhere. Frankly I think the idea of the CB1100 is spot on. Not the bike itself but a Swiss Army Knife approach to things. Not the best at any of it and not laser focused on a segment but a damn motorcycle that is fairly competent in all it does at a reasonable price.

  10. Mark says:

    I own two bikes. A triumph and a KTM.
    And the only new bike I am looking at is a….KTM
    Purchased my first KTM in 2006, and am on my 4th, a 350 xcf-w. Loved em all!
    This is my third Triumph, and two of them have been the same model (TIGER 1050). Can’t see a better bike out there for my street/long distance riding needs, except the new 1190 ADV

    No Japanese bikes get me excited right now, and I don’t expect that to change

  11. glen says:

    We are going back in time! A time when the Europeans sold the “big” bikes and the Japanese sold the small ones!

    • Vrooom says:

      Given KTM’s focus on singles (Yes, the 1190 is a big seller too) and BMW and Triumph both pushing new 800s, I’m not sure it’s as clear cut as that. The Europeans are certainly making a lot of bikes I covet. All the Japanese sport tourers are in the mega-capacity range, and the liter bikes seem to rule the standard market (with the exception of the FZ-9), you can find a nice range in all makes.

  12. Mike G says:

    I’ve seen this coming for years….hopefully the Big Four will respond on a large scale, which will be good for the sport and maybe even the planet.

    At some point, sport bikes just became outrageous. Only a select percentage of motorcyclists will be comfortable wringing these things out on public roads, and not that I really give a crap about their licenses, but should they just slightly tap the performance potential of these bikes on the street in front of the Law, well, they’re going to lose their driving privileges.

    Most of us don’t want to ride stuff that imposes huge compromises on us in exchange for performance that isn’t appropriate for the street. Don’t get me wrong, I want performance that’s extraordinary, that I can use at my discretion. But I’m not interested in crouching like Rossi the rest of the time I’m riding around.

    So, the Europeans actually use motorcycles, and the vast majority of the bikes they build are useful and fun and built for the real world of street use or mixed dirt road riding. The American riding public is starting to respond with a natural selection process by buying bikes that haul some serious ass, but that don’t extract undue penalties for it.

    With some respect for the few “standards” being produced by Kawasaki and Yamaha, and maybe Honda’s retro CB1100, I think that Yamaha’s FZ-09 might be the first really fresh step in the right direction.

    • J Lowrance says:

      Couldn’t have said it ant better than this!!!!

    • VLJ says:

      And thus, the Street Triples. They hit all your targets. Fast, fun, manageable, upright, reasonably affordable. They cover the “real-world, comfortable sportbike” concept nearly perfectly.

  13. Norm G. says:

    re: “But can it last? Are the European companies just gobbling up the last dollars Baby Boomers (and their First-World counterparts) will be spending at the tail ends of their long motorcycling careers?”

    ya know, I thought about this ’cause it’s a real possibility. then I realized the year and a half waiting list Ferrari has for all of it’s models means that wealth in the 21st century is no longer the exclusive domain of altacockers. see entry for Prince William, see entry for John Carmack, see entry for that tosser Zuckerberg.

  14. soi cowboy says:

    BMW is taking a lot of share from the klr650. It is a good bike, but there are about ten things you have to fix on it. Why kawi won’t take care of the details on such a successful bike is a mystery. Maybe production should be shifted back to Japan.

    • Vrooom says:

      I was curious about that after reading your post. KLR650 production has increased almost 50% a year, after slowing precipitously from 2007-2010, they increased from 3400 units in 2010 to 11,000 units in 2013. I wasn’t sure what model BMW you meant to compare this to, the F650, F800, or both? It’s an interesting question. BMW sold about 116,000 units overall in 2013, but I couldn’t find a model by model breakdown, though the largest number belong to the 1200GS. I agree that Kawasaki has some issues they need to address (doohickey for god’s sake).

      • soi cowboy says:

        One issue with the klr is that there are a lot of good used units around. Typically, an older rider will buy a klr for the once in a lifetime trip to Alaska or where ever (gawd I’ll never do that again). Then the bike is sold once the trip is over. Upgrades would further increase the price gap between new and used.

  15. Montana says:

    Dave is right. Let’s talk about market share. My guess is Honda sells well over twice as many bikes in the US as all the Euro bikes put together.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Honda sells well over twice as many bikes”

      bikes, ATV’s, scooters, watercraft, lawnmowers, generators, terminators. skynet’s jacked into everything, but they have to be.

      • Dave says:

        The point is valid even if you back out everything Honda makes that isn’t a bike. Honda has positioned themselves to capture large market share in the largest markets. BMW has positioned themselves to produce expensive bikes for rich folks to ride through these markets on urban safari.

        • Motowarrior says:

          Yet another guy commenting on something he knows nothing about. Have you ever been to a BMW Rally? There is a huge cross section of riders in every economic category, with one thing in common: they love to ride. Most of my friends have put over 100,000 miles on a BMW or two. They ride them to work, the ride them on Iron Butt rallies and they ride them around the world. And new BMWs are priced from around $10,000 . Have you priced a Gold Wing lately? Before you go calling all BMW riders rich folks, you should actually meet one. More shots fired in the class warfare battle, I guess.

          • goose says:

            I might disagree about a few details but your generally right. It depends on a person’s priorates, I used to ride with a woman who had a beat up, high milage VW car and a nearly new, very nicely set up Beemer. The same with Ducatis, some Ducati riders are rich, others are making a lot of scarifies to ride the desmo way.

            I’m an ex BMW rider but I vividly remember the wide variety of folks at the rallies.


        • Norm G. says:

          re: “Honda has positioned themselves to capture large market share in the largest markets.”

          except BMW benefits from having spent 80 years positioning themselves in the 9,998 other markets. they’re dug in like an Alabama tick.

      • Vrooom says:

        I was surprised to read this, but according to a rival publication, Suzuki and Yamaha sell more motorcycles than Honda. For 2013 Yamaha (173,918), Suzuki (173,319), Honda (141,800), BMW (115,191).

  16. sean says:

    I’m a big fan of naked supersports and the Euro’s do the best job of offering their superbikes in relatively unchanged naked form. I like these bikes because they offer top shelf engine and performance parts in a more comfortable package. The Japanese naked’s are significantly inferior to their supersport coutner parts and for me that’s deal breaker. Anyway I’m just one person but that’s how the Euro brands have reached my business. I have my eyes on the updated Tuono V4R ABS as my next bike, but I may just save some coin and buy an older Tuono or Ducati SF. I have nothing against Japanese bikes (one my favorite rides was a Yamaha R6) and I’d love some competative options from Japan.

  17. david says:

    Agree 100% with what NOV says.

  18. Nov says:

    The euros are making bikes that people want to buy. The Japanese are doing the complete opposite. When Japanese manufacturers start making bikes more appealing and offer test rides, then I’ll start considering one.

    • Dave says:

      The EU brands are boasting about growth but from what? Their unit figures are small and easier to grow from, especially when the Japanese brands topped out 6-8 years ago. Hero sells 330k bikes a MONTH! They may be smaller bikes but anybody want to guess who’s in a stronger position?

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “They may be smaller bikes but anybody want to guess who’s in a stronger position?”

        survey says…!!! (*ding*)(board flips over)… BMW.

        was the #1 answer. (ex-pat Dawson voice)

        • Dave says:

          You believe BMW is in a stronger position than Hero or Honda? Really? They (Honda/Hero) sell MILLIONS of bikes per year and they are entrenched in the two largest markets with the largest growth potential in the world. BMW is nowhere by comparison.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “You believe BMW is in a stronger position than Hero or Honda? Really?”

            i do. gotta use your wide angle lens to see it though. there’s something called “brand equity”. though an intangible, it’s actually quite valuable. in fact, it’s thee most valuable asset a company owns.

            that blue/white badge that people think is a propeller…? but is actually a take on the Bavarian coat of arms is so powerful that it allows them to sell ANYTHING to ANYBODY at ANY price and people will buy it. that’s not a luxury Hero or Honda enjoy. The Roundel (forget the cars and any other kit they make) by itself is worth Honda/Hero and those 2 markets combined.

            re: “BMW is nowhere by comparison.”

            that’s because they’re EVERYWHERE. they’ve long since trekked to the 4 corners and returned. like Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, they’ve woven themselves into the very fabric of our psyche… maybe not yours. (paul bettany voice)

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I’d be curious to know how test rides play into sales figures. In all my years of riding, I’ve never bought a street motorcycle that I didn’t test ride first. I never will either. We have a couple of big dealerships here that will let you test ride anything they have, but I am surprised at how many dealerships still don’t.

  19. mickey says:

    “It’s interesting the European factories are growing sales and crowing their successes with faster, bigger, more expensive models while the Japanese factories seem to focus on cheaper, smaller, simpler low-performance models for developing markets. ”

    i don’t know..sounds like 1964 all over again. Worked out for the Japanese firms last time around.

    • Gabe says:

      Not saying the Japanese are on the downswing–just sayin’ they seem to be devoting more energy to lightweight markets. And yeah, that’s where they succeeded in the 60s and 70s.

    • MGNorge says:

      Perhaps the Japanese are looking a little further down the road and are bringing to market bikes intended to appeal to today’s first time rider as well as tomorrow’s? Established riders grumble at the influx of new bikes for new riders as being unappealing but then these aren’t intended for them. Not a whole lot of people with definitive ideas of what they like in a bike have actually bought them over the last several years, except maybe the Harley faithful. If they had the manufacturers would have responded. How’s it go, follow the money trail!

  20. Brinskee says:

    It’s a great question Gabe. Who’s buying the bikes? I’m sure there are plenty of publications that have done some market research to help discover the answer. I think, personally, it’s a mix of baby boomers and new riders. It would be interesting (hint hint) for you guys to do a comprehensive study on who is buying what kind of bikes. I know I’d be interesting in this info.

    Nice article. Paint me a believer – 4 of my last 5 bikes have been European, including my current two, and the next bikes I have in my sights are european. There’s nothing really (besides a slight interest in the R1 with crossplane crank) from the japanese that holds my interest. Well MAYBE the FZ09 triple… that might at least have a little soul.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “There’s nothing really (besides a slight interest in the R1 with crossplane crank) from the japanese that holds my interest.”


      • Pablo says:

        Asian countries are buying bikes. Just saw an article on a local site which says Honda sold 16.8 million bikes for 2013! Asia and Oceania accounted for 12.9 million of those. South America 1.6 million and China 1.3 million and North America 278,000. So I assume it’s largely scooters that are making up the Asian volume.

        • goose says:

          I’m sure your facts are correct but let’s remember Honda probably nets about $1.38 each on the scooters they are selling in the third world vs thousands per unit on a Gold Wing. Just comparing units sold is pointless.

          I’ll throw out a personal opinion too, people who buy Gold Wings, Harleys, Ducatis, etc. tend to be loyal. I’ll bet you can loose tens of thousands of sales in a heartbeat in the third world if competitor introduces a bike as good as yours for $20 less. These people look at a scooter as a tool, “I need to get from here to there as cheaply as possible”, not a toy “I want the pretty red one!”.


          • Norm G. says:

            re: “I’ll bet you can loose tens of thousands of sales in a heartbeat in the third world if competitor introduces a bike as good as yours for $20 less.”

            excellent point. you’ve just articulated one of the key pitfalls in “racing to the bottom”.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Having lived in the third world, I can assure you that brands are just as important there. The Honda brand for example has quite a bit of weight everywhere I’ve been, and people tend to experience the same soft “benefits” of pride and satisfaction of owning a Honda over say a Dnepr. Even if it is just a tool, people want what they perceive to be a good one.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “It’s a great question Gabe. Who’s buying the bikes?”

      re: “It would be interesting (hint hint) for you guys to do a comprehensive study on who is buying what kind of bikes. I know I’d be interesting in this info.”

      stand down, we don’t need the Supreme Court for this one either. let’s got to the calendar, it’s calendar time for Brinskee…

      there ya go. (Larry Bishop voice)

  21. kjazz says:

    As oil dries up, more and more motorcycles will be needed….right up to the apocalypse. Then we’ll STILL need them… if Road Warrior taught us anything !!

    As far as us baby boomers go, we are just getting started on the real spending. Most of us only recently entered retirement age (though many are continuing to work out or choice or necessity). And the rest are in their best earning years. Most of us (BBs) have kids that are about to be on their own, which means even MORE MOTORCYCLE MONEY will be allocated!!!

    I think it’s less about Japan or Europe (manuf)…. it’s about us !!! If we want it, they will build it.

    • Dave says:

      And when oil becomes expensive enough to diminish the market’s fascination with hp/liter figures, we’ll even have motorcycles that are more fuel efficient than cars!

    • Blackcayman says:

      OIL ISN’T Drying UP…Have you not heard they found more oil in Autralia than the Saudis ever had?

      By the 1970 estimates the USA, Canada & Mexico should be out of oil – Yet we have more now than they said we had then and that’s after pumping all we did for the last 40 years.

      Iraq is jsut starting to gear up to reach 10 Billion Barrels a day by 2020 and that’s just starting to scratch the surface.

      There isn’t going to be an oil shortages in our time UNLESS they are POLITICAL

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “There isn’t going to be an oil shortages in our time UNLESS they are POLITICAL”

        F’ me running, it’s just occurred to me then we’re guaranteed oil shortages. 🙁

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