Thursday, 13 December 2018

Comment by Editor, Robin Bradley

Not all statistics are equal

Our industry is heavily dependent on statistics. From show attendances, inventory and margins to displacements, performance calibrations and registrations - we float in a sea of statistical dependency.
But, to channel American author Mark Twain (who credited 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli for the “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics” quote), for sure not all statistics are of equal validity.
In this era of so-called “fake news”, the famous (infamous?) epithet still highlights how statistics can be bent, shaped and moulded to support any argument, any agenda, any interpretation of any (apparent) facts some 150 years after it was first coined.
In the case of our current market, there are two statistical issues that are vexing those who seek clarity - visitor statistics at the market’s two major industry shows (INTERMOT and EICMA) and the true new motorcycle sales trend that appears to be hidden underneath the Euro 3/Euro 4 transition impacted registration data for 2016, 2017 and, increasingly apparently, for 2018.
In the past three or four years there has been much debate about the comparative merits and demerits of INTERMOT and EICMA - much of it revolving around the attendance numbers and how even the OE manufacturers, including those with an effective ownership stake in INTERMOT, appear to be voting with their own feet by staging ever more new model launches at Milan rather than Cologne, even in the even numbered INTERMOT years.

 ‘the problem is interpretation and context’

Well, that has way more to do with the exhibit discounts that EICMA is “persuading” the manufacturers with (to launch at EICMA and specifically NOT do so at INTERMOT) than the attendance numbers, because they understand the reality of the attendance number claims (they see the real figures) and “get it” where the comparative value per visitor comparison between the shows is concerned.
EICMA persists in making unsubstantiated visitor number claims. Again, after this year’s show, their press release talks about percentage increases without actually naming a number - I think it is some years since ANCMA, the trade association that owns EICMA, have cited an actual hard figure - which makes one think they are trying to roll back on the notoriously inflated claims being made as the motorcycle market endured the “dark decade” following the 2007 financial crisis.
Conversely, however, Koelnmesse, which stages INTERMOT, is a member of a domestic German expo centre trade association that insists that all member expo numbers are independently audited - so although they are always citing an apparently lower figure than EICMA, we know it is a true number at some 220,000. INTERMOT 2018 matched the 2016 record number the show has attracted since moving from Munich.
Then there is the issue of how many EICMA visitors are of riding age, and what kind of mileage and ownership profile (and therefore aftermarket value) they actually have.
At both INTERMOT and EICMA I spent 30 minutes sat in the central ‘causeway’ watching the visitors (in both cases on the Thursday - a public day), and the contrast couldn’t have been starker. At INTERMOT the vast majority were clearly riders - you could tell by what they were wearing or carrying. At EICMA? Not so much.
Honestly, in 30 minutes I didn’t see one single person wearing or carrying riding gear, not one. Those who looked like they might ride (at best between a quarter and a third of the traffic watched) were in the minority and were clearly low mileage, mostly urban scooter riders.
Sure, an important and growing sector, but not riders who underpin the industry balance sheet with the kind of mileage and spending needed to sustain the investments that multiple ‘big ticket’ shows like INTERMOT, EICMA and others suck from budgets.
Meanwhile, what of the registration statistics? Well, this month we lead with the latest quarterly statistics from ACEM on the front cover and have some three pages of statistical reports from 10 different countries on three continents.
Not for one minute is there a suggestion that the figures themselves are in any sense dubious, in strict terms they are not. They are accurate and, for what they are, entirely reliable and coming from impeccable sources and compiled diligently by hard working people whose job is simply to “do the math” - and for that everyone should be grateful. It isn’t easy work and does take a certain talent and mindset.
No, the problem lies with the interpretation and context - and again, this is really nobody’s fault as such, but as I said in the last edition, I think it behoves everybody just to be aware that all may not entirely be as it seems.
I met a few people at the shows who had read my October Comment and thought that it made sense, and in fact made particular sense in the context of the “real world” feeling they had for just how well the market is really doing at present.
The issue isn’t with the headline figure. Selling (or rather, registering) 830,694 in total motorcycles in the nine months to September is a perfectly good number, especially in the context of the 2013 nadir.
It is the 2017 comparison of +8.2 percent that is likely to be misleading a lot of people in the aftermarket (the trade association and OEM professionals ‘get it’) into thinking that growth is flowing like milk and honey again. It isn’t!
As we here at IDN have pointed out on multiple occasions this year (and will do so again next year when the final 2018 numbers are available), it is the “official” 2017 figure that is tainting the comparison.
The 50,000 to 80,000 “units” that were pre-registered in 2016 (especially in the final quarter) in advance of the Euro 4 compliance deadline at the end of that year were (mostly) sold by dealers in the early months of 2017, even at some often quite deep discounts, favourable terms and with generous accessory and G&A bundles as incentives.
After the return to growth seen in the second half of 2014, the market has had two very good years in 2015 and 2016, but then the registrations picture had started to level off by this time last year and has continued to plateau in 2018.

INTERMOT 2018 Part 2

Central Wheel Components: For students of vendor longevity, raise a glass for Central Wheel Components of Birmingham, England. Founded in 1897, the company has celebrated 120 years of continuous operation. The company stocks more than 15,000 motorcycle wheel rims and 500,000 spokes and nipples at any one time, most manufactured in-house. Its SM Pro Platinum rim is widely recognized as the world’s strongest and lightest aftermarket MX/off-road rim. These days the company is based at Coleshill, England, near the UK’s National Motorcycle Museum;


Touratech: Initially only being sold in Germany and Switzerland, the German Adventure Touring specialist is offering a complete motorcycle for the very first time - the Touratech World Travel Edition, a fully touring equipped BMW R 1200 GS. The bike is given the Touratech Desierto V fairing trim kit (a decal set developed by Rubber Dust) with yellow powder-coated components and powerful side-mounted auxiliary lights to emphasize its dual-purpose credentials. The original fork legs are replaced by expedition-compatible components from Touratech Suspension. All functions of the electronic suspension are fully retained, but the suspension package is said to greatly improve off-road and long distance on-road handling. The selection of vehicle-specific components is “designed to guarantee maximum functionality and practicality with an attention to detail that comes from our years of experience - such as shifting the gimbal vent to increase the wading depth or the little protectors at the throttle valves all prove our long-distance travel expertise”;


Paaschburg & Wunderlich: The distributor and parts and accessory designer made the headlines earlier this year when it announced its acquisition of German parts maker and bike builder LSL Motorradtechnik GmbH from founder and former Harley dealer Jochen Schmitz-Linkweiler. Noted for top-end parts and expansive series production ‘Clubman’ and special bike building programmes, LSL warehousing and sales activities have been relocated to the P&W facility at Glinde, near Hamburg. The LSL development department, design and engineering teams have stayed at the existing LSL facility at Krefeld under the continuing leadership of Schmitz-Linkweiler. P&W existing own brands include HIGHSIDER, Shin Yo, Takkoni and Moto Professional;;


Barkbusters: The Australian handguards specialist has announced the release of its new state-of-the- art, aerodynamically designed AERO-GP lever guards - “conceived with safety in mind, but created to be beautiful when fitted to your machine,” says Robert Veljanoski, Barkbusters General Manager.  “The innovative design will complement the look of today’s street bike aesthetics while providing the essential protection needed to prevent accidental activation of the brake or clutch lever during close quarters racing on the track, with street riders protected when riding in large groups, tight spaces and during lane filtering on congested urban roads. The adjustable reach means a perfect fit and they are sold with an additional aerofoil included.“ The sleek, functional aerofoil can be fitted for increased wind protection or removed in seconds for a compact sporty style;


Sol Motors: The Stuttgart, Germany based designer says the 2018 German Design Award-winning ‘Pocket Rocket’ is not an E-bike, as it goes too fast (though it is battery powered), nor a moped, as it has no pedals, but instead is a ‘NoPed’ - “defining a new category of electric two-wheelers”, saying that it is the “perfect urban commuter vehicle”;


D.I.D. Europe: The chain of choice for chain drive conversions, recent new technology from the Japanese specialist has included next generation “Anti-Shock Performance” chain that reduces the process of “Plastic Elongation” caused by the momentary excessive tension that causes the chain pin holes to deform over time - resistance to such deformation is said to be increased by up to 25 percent;


TDR: Founded in 2000 and headed up in Europe by former Hyperpro executive Jan Belder, TDR Industries is a leading Asian motorcycle and component business with facilities spread across multiple Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Taiwan. The company is seeking new distribution and dealer partners, initially for a range of components for the Yamaha NMAX, XMAX and HONDA PCX models. The TDR product line is focussed on R&D, manufacturing and distribution of tuning, handling, style and maintenance products such as various sizes of ceramic cylinders, twin iridium spark plugs, camshafts, continuously variable transmissions (CVT), springs and clutch sets, roller weights, pulley sets, stainless steel air filters, gear ratios, brake pads, discs and hoses, handgrips and more. “TDR has a proven record and an exceptional reputation”, says Belder. “They deliver high quality and high performance motorcycle components in the South East Asian market, and we are pleased to announce that we are now starting to take our journey further into the European market in the coming months and years”;


Motoz: By reputation, the Australian tyre manufacturer offers some of the best dual-sport, Enduro or MX tyres money can buy. Listen to the “paddock chat” about their obvious quality and get some seriously top-end knobbies from the company’s new German warehouse inventory;

Spanish motorcycle registrations

Spain: motorcycle registrations +16.37 percent to October

The latest data from ANESDOR, the motorcycle industry trade association in Spain, shows motorcycle registrations +15.15 percent for October (14,354 units), having been +19.48 percent (14,998 units) for September. For the YTD the market is Spain was +16.37 percent at 138,008 units.

The moped market in Spain remains soft (-24.15 percent/12,501 units YTD) with total PTW registrations +15.64 percent in October (16,490 units), having been +16.91 percent in September (16,903 units) and are running at +15.61 percent YTD (156,166 units).
Jose Maria Riano, Secretary General of ANESDOR, says that “October was in line with the +13 percent to +20 percent growth in registrations in Spain seen for most of 2018 so far. The growth is partly down to economic recovery, but also due to more citizens turning to two-wheel transportation, especially in urban areas, because of its positive effect on congestion and the environmental advantages”.
ANESDOR says that some 49 companies sell 117 PTW brands in Spain. On small volumes (362 units) the previously growing rental channel declined by -5.5 percent in October compared to October 2017.
Honda is market share leader in Spain, taking an increased 20.20 percent of the market YTD (27,810 units); Yamaha is second with 15.8 percent (21,828 units), with Kymco third (10.3 percent, 14,223 units), followed by BMW and Piaggio.


Cardo to join forces with JBL for high-end communication system audio

Cardo Systems continues its evolution as the leading wireless communication systems manufacturer for motorcyclists with a link-up with JBL - a division of the Harman Group and one of the most respected names in the top-end audio industry.

With embedded audio software technology developed by JBL specifically for Cardo at their Los Angeles audio labs, Sound by JBL now gives riders the highest standard of audio quality in Cardo’s latest generation of Packtalk communication systems, including the Freecom 4+, “establishing a new standard of audio quality for motorcyclists. Our collaboration with JBL will deliver a superior audio experience,” says Dr. Abraham Glezerman, Cardo’s founder and CEO.

“We have been relentlessly committed to enhancing our users’ joy of riding ever since pioneering the Motorcycle Bluetooth category back in 2004. This partnership is yet another powerful example of the innovation behind that ongoing commitment. JBL and its world-class audio solutions will allow us to bring our customers a new standard of sound for the best riding experience possible.”
After interviewing thousands of riders over the course of 15 years, Cardo Systems says it discovered that, collectively, the three things riders are most concerned about when looking for a communication device are performance, ease-of-use and sound quality.
Cardo can justifiably claim to have reinvented performance by introducing the next generation Dynamic Mesh Communication platform, improved ease-of-use with industry-first one-step natural voice commands and are now bringing premium audio to one of the most difficult sound quality environments imaginable.
Natural voice command operation allows riders to simply say “Hey Cardo” without having to press any buttons, and the always-on device reacts instantaneously. The big safety benefit: hands always remain on the handlebar, including activation of Apple’s Siri and “OK Google” by voice command.
The all-new Freecom 4+ combines JBL driven sound quality with Bluetooth based natural voice command operation and a razor-thin control wheel, available at a mid-range price point. The Dynamic Mesh technology that underpins the Cardo Packtalk concept allows up to 12 riders to join and leave communications and conversations with fellow riders over a distance of up to 5 miles without the network crashing and the riders needing to re-establish communications because it doesn’t use the conventional “cascade connection chain” technique.
Instead it is, quite literally, a “dynamic mesh” that allows any rider to join and leave at any time. It also features natural voice activation and JBL audio grade sound quality in a glove-friendly, ergonomic and aerodynamic package together with state-of-the-art four-way rider-to-rider, rider-to-passenger and single-rider intercom.
“We are excited to offer top-end technology at an affordable price point for the consumer,” says Glezerman. “With its best-in-class sound, truly natural voice operation and the innovative razor-thin wheel, Freecom 4+ underscores again our ongoing and firm commitment to developing the industry’s best solutions and providing consumers with communication systems that perform extremely well for virtually any riding style.”
Glezerman concluded by saying that “the Freecom 4+ is the best equipped and best performing Bluetooth communication system anywhere” - and it is hard to argue with that claim.

Japanese made motorcycle exports

Japanese made motorcycle exports to Europe -10.02 percent for first nine months of 2018

The latest data released by JAMA (the automotive trade association in Japan, which includes representation of motorcycle manufacturers among its membership) shows exports of Japanese made motorcycles to Europe down by -24.82 percent in September (9,010 units), having been +2.10 percent in August (9,034 units) and running at -10.02 percent for the first nine months of 2018 (143,293 units).

Exports of Japanese made motorcycles to USA for September were +8.18 percent (6,019 units) and are running at +6.99 percent YTD (55,301 units). Total Japanese manufactured motorcycle exports worldwide are -5.62 percent YTD at 256,801 units.
PTW exports to Europe (motorcycles, scooters and mopeds combined) were -20.46 percent for September (10,352 units) and are 7.30 percent for the first nine months of 2018 (157,993 units); they are +6.91 percent YTD for USA (84,817 units) and were -3.83 percent worldwide (333,173 units).
The increasing number of units being made by Japanese manufacturers elsewhere in Asia, the US and South/Central America goes some way to providing historical context for the data, though the majority of higher value larger displacement Japanese brand machines, especially those being sold in Europe, are still made in Japan.
Their overseas factories are primarily engaged in making and selling scooters and smaller capacity units in 'emerging' markets (where import tariffs are high) and in making ATV/UTV units - especially in the United States where demand for such machines is strongest.
Japanese made motorcycle and moped (all PTW) exports fell off a cliff in 2009 to 583,879 from over 1m in 2008 and have continued to decline most years since then (463,123 units in 2017); they peaked at 1,641m units in 2000.


Andreani spring tester

Noted for its top-selling advanced suspension testing, tuning and tools programmes, Italian specialist Andreani Group’s DS1 electronic spring tester was developed by the company’s in-house R&D team to “perfectly and easily measure shock absorber and fork spring load”.
Designed as a tool for all technicians who want to deliver precision results when tuning or rebuilding race or street suspensions, and especially when building custom suspension installations or upgrading OE manufacturer standard front fork and shock absorber set-ups, Andreani says its ergonomically designed DS1 is “equipped with everything necessary for the technician to be able to work efficiently and accurately - the DS1 guarantees maximum accuracy of results”.
“This is due to the absolute reliability, precision and accuracy of its design and manufacture and of the calculations and calibrations used. It boasts a maximum load of up to 1,000 kg (10,000 N), a total range of 350 mm, and a sensibility to a tenth of a kilo”.
User-friendly features include an LED touch screen display, function keys for manual and automatic measurement, and the possibility to measure the static forces of both MX and MTB forks and shock absorbers. All the adapters for the main forks and springs on the market are supplied as standard.



Race and Euro 4 carbon M3 exhaust

Italian exhaust specialist GPR is celebrating its latest race successes - especially its wins in the Moto3 World Championship with Jorge Martin - with a M3 Moto3 replica dedicated to the “Martinator”.

An update of the line dedicated to Joan Mir, the M3 is 100% manufactured in “genuine matt carbon for a light and compact exhaust that is available in racing or homologated version for the best-selling sport and naked style models”.

For 2019 (spring launch), the Italian factory is also introducing a new concept, the “Sonic Revolution”, “an innovative design and use of advanced materials (titanium and ‘Poppy’ stainless steel) and precision manufacturing that meets the Euro 4 requirements”.