Business – Exclusive: European manufacturers facing the crisis – Exclusive: European manufacturers facing the crisis

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Exclusive: European manufacturers facing the crisis

Business - Exclusive: European manufacturers facing the crisis - Exclusive: European manufacturers facing the crisis

Weakened by the crisis, the motorcycle market is also seeing the dawning of a small revolution: faced with Japanese price increases, European production is becoming more competitive! What are its levers in a declining sector ?

Cross interviews.

Exclusive: European manufacturers facing the crisis

After years of sweet euphoria, the French two-wheeler market experienced a sharp slowdown last fall and is now posting worrying results that are affecting the entire motorcycle economy..

Main reasons for this sudden slowdown in demand: bad weather and especially the arrival of hurricane "global economic crisis" in France, with its share of financial cataclysms. Affected in mid-flight, the manufacturers tried in vain to stop the bleeding: the emphasis was on communication, the highlighting of new models and some interesting promotions thus brightened up the end of 2008..

But for some, another problem loomed behind the scenes: hitherto favored by lower production costs and a yen / euro parity to their advantage, the four Japanese giants must now deal with an unprecedented economic situation, which forces them to gradually increase their selling prices.

Made in Japan

Most European manufacturers were swept away by Japanese production during the 1970s. However, if some were able to resist the steamroller (at the time, largely favored by monetary parity in its European development), many "historic" brands had to close their doors: Norton, BSA, Malaguti, etc. However, to deny the contribution of the Empire of the Rising Sun in the development of two-wheelers around the world would be unfair: thanks to their large range and their excellent quality / price ratio, the four Japanese have made the practice of motorcycles accessible to all and strongly contributed to its technological developments. In 1969, Honda laid the foundations of modern motorcycles with the legendary CB 750, while Yamaha marketed the TX 750 equipped with double discs and stick rims in 1972. And the same year, Kawasaki unveiled a three-cylinder engine. 750 cc with two-stroke engine: the famous 750 H2! Innovative, Akashi’s coat of arms will also be the first to use injection on a motorcycle (Z 1000 H in 1979), while Suzuki was the pioneer of the aluminum frame on its explosive RG gamma in 1985..

One by one, the Japanese manufacturers have thus made price "adjustments", sometimes explained and justified by the managers of the import subsidiaries in person, as was first the case for Yamaha Motor France (read), then for Honda France, forced to increase its prices by around 7% on average after having already revised them up by around 3% in February (read).

More aggressive commercially, Kawasaki and Suzuki have – for the moment – not followed this surge in prices: if the Blues (read and) and the Greens (read) have also made some increases, they have been accompanied by tempting price cuts on 2008 models still in stock. .

And finally, who could benefit from this turnaround? To European manufacturers, of course! Back in business for several years, the five main "Made in EU" players in the motorcycle world are now called BMW, Ducati, KTM, Triumph and Piaggio Group (Aprilia and Moto Guzzi). Gradually, their range has grown, even shaking up certain segments where the Japanese reigned supreme. !

However, with the fall of the yen and its logical repercussions on the price grids of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki, European manufacturers can strengthen their positions against Japanese brands..

To find out more, Site asked the same five questions to the main European manufacturers, in order to take stock of their situation and their prospects. Aware that Japanese hegemony is faltering without being on the verge of tipping over, the five manufacturers do not hide the present and future difficulties on the French market … Their vision nevertheless seems less alarmist than certain predictions: all are betting on the passion and quality that surround their products to consolidate – or even increase – their market share despite the crisis … !

Interview by Alexandre BARDIN

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