30 years ago the european brands had lost market share to the Japanese to the point of being a footnote in the industry, even though British and Italian motorcycles (along with a few American brands) really established motorcycles before the Japanese invasion of the industry. BMW was a speck in the market compared to the big four, and Ducati and Triumph even less so (or basically gone altogether in the case of Triumph). Over the past decade there has been an incredible resurgence of the european brands, who have carved out brand identities in much the same way HD has, expanded their bike lines to cover virtually every base, and have done a much better job of establishing solid dealer networks than they had in the past.
When people think of a BMW rider or a Ducati rider they get a very clear mental picture of a lifestyle and brand identity, be it the GS rider with his expedition cases and adventure gear, or the Ducati guys with their superbikes and leathers or Sport Classics sitting in front of an italian cafe. The Japanese manufacturers have virtually no identitiy. What do you think of when you picture the typical Yamaha owner? Suzuki? People identify with the brand image, and branding is more important today than it ever was, because everyone's bikes are pretty good today, and do more-or-less the same thing, so branding is where you either succeed or fail.
If you look at notebook computers, a windows computer and an Apple more of less do the same thing. You can argue that one is better at some things than the other, and they both have their strengths, but ultimately they'll both surf the web, play your music, crunch numbers, do email, etc. If you remove the case, you'll be very hard-pressed to tell one from the other. They use many similar parts from the same suppliers, and they're all built more or less by the same people. Apple, however, can sell their notebook for approximately 50% more than the average windows notebook, and when they introduce a new one they have a press conference that makes front-page news worldwide, and typically has a waiting list for orders. The biggest difference between them is marketing and branding. The Apple has cool commercials with hip young people and edgy music, and they make you want to be part of that lifestyle.
I think the bottom line today is that there are just too many manufacturers fighting for a market that appears to be contracting, and a few of them aren't going to survive. I think in a decade two of the big four will probably be history, or at least resort to downscaling their 2-wheel business into something like scooters exclusively. I think the future for cheap electric scooters will be the boost that the industry needs, though I consider that nothing more than transportation vs. motorcycling as an actiivity, sport, lifestyle, or whatever you choose to describe it.
I don't know what the actual sales data indicates, but my seat-of-the-pants feel of the market is that the current young generation has less and less interest in motorcycling, and doesn't seem to be able to focus on much of anything besides their social media bullshit and smartphones. Given that a good percentage of today's young people are jacked on prescription speed it's probably just as well that they stay off of two wheels.
Originally Posted by bobobob
Or BMW or Ducati or Triumph.
The doom is in the Asian motorcycle industry.