In 2017, Honda's CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, said "There’s no doubt we lost our mojo – our way as an engineering company that made Honda... Honda". For years my riding buddies have been discussing why the Japanese were market leaders decades ago, but seem content to rest on their laurels and let the Europeans take over as innovators. Sure we occasionally seeing new adventure models. And occasionally old models get some tweaks. But many believe the passion has gone and the bean counters have taken over. I usually joined in this sort of criticism, but recently decided to look into it a bit further. Motorbikes are usually only a small part of their business. For example, Kawasaki makes airplanes, ships, missiles, helicopters, monorails, trains, and gas turbines. When you get that big, motorbikes are just a small part of your business. And of course the original passion for creating motorbikes is now completely dominated by profit. The shareholders become more important than the consumers. And innovating can be an expensive risk. The motorbikes we like probably aren't the big money spinners. We like to think it's the sports bikes, the adventure bikes, or the off road bikes. But the biggest markets are for small models selling in China, southeast Asia and India. For example Honda's biggest market is India selling models you have probably never heard: the Honda Unicorn, Shine, Activa, Livo and Grazia. If pumping out endless small bikes is bringing home the bacon, why risk money on innovating expensive bikes in small markets? Economic woes affecting outlook. Since the 1990s, Japan's economy took a turn for the worse so business strategies have become very conservative. So if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just keep selling those old models if they keep selling. Grandfather clauses: sometimes it doesn't pay to make changes. Famous bikes like the DR650 and XR650L are still sold in some countries under the grandfather clause. As long as you don't change the design significantly, you don't need to meet tighter emission laws. So it's easier to just not change anything. Not worth trying to compete with Europe? Many argue that Japan's strength was in research and development. They rarely pioneered anything new, but took another brand's idea and made it really work well. But of course the European brands have become very good at not only innovating, but creating new models that are often just as reliable as the Japanese models. Japan would have an uphill battle if it wanted to regain mastery of the market as it did in the 1970s. Motorcycles have an uncertain future. Millennials are less inclined to buy vehicle, or even learn to drive or ride. Emission laws may well kill off large capacity motorbikes... and possibly all internal combustion engines. Environmental restrictions make the future of off road riding very uncertain. Perhaps research and development is being held off for the electric boom? It will be very interesting to see how Japan's big four go over the next few decades. Keen to know your thoughts.