Jump to content
OZ DRZ

Have the Japanese brands lost their mojo?

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

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, the Japanese are still putting some R&D into motocross. And we are 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 when it comes to their motorbike divisions overall. 

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 in Japan have affected their 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. 

 

 

Edited by OZ DRZ
  • Like 12
  • Helpful 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All the above,,,,unfortunately. To start with Papa Honda loved racing and took enormous pride in getting Honda to the top of every competition form entered. Profits be dammed! He brilliantly recognized the money spent on achieving the top rung had a mental affect on potential buyers of Honda products and drew them to the brand. Then with his passing the lesser leadership that came into power has never fully understood how important that was. They totally fail to understand how important a small bike can be to a youngster in shaping his future purchases. Stupid! Then with the coming of the left and millenials who are embracing the pussification of America the process will be made complete. First the left will take over so they can exercise total power in controlling the freedom of the people to make independent choices. Those who express a different choice than what is PC environmentally will be dealt with by regulation etc to keep them in line. The millenials will go along with this loss of freedom due to them being totally spineless and fearful of any act to stand up for our rights. Go along to get along and let the Guv take care of them.  My real fear is that America will closely resemble China's robotic populace within 30-50 years. 

  • Like 23
  • Helpful 5
  • Confused 3
  • Haha 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Yeah very disappointing, just saw a new KX450XC. No wide ratio trans, no lights, itty bitty tank, WTF...

Edited by Diverdown
  • Like 10

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, the Japanese manufacturers have lost their mojo. There products are dictated by corporate bean counters rather than enthusiasts. It works for them, so I can't complain. I rode Yamaha's for years, finally made the switch to Beta about 5 years ago and do not miss Japanese bikes one bit.

  • Like 5
  • Sad 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't like to be all doom and gloom, but it seems as though they have too many (more profitable) irons in the fire. The single market that I think has done the most damage to the off-road, mx, dual-sport, adventure market is side by sides. I was talking with a Honda dealer before the 'Rona hit. He said that he sold more side by sides than all models of dirt bikes and quads combined.

That was mind blowing to me.

  • Like 5
  • Helpful 2
  • Sad 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

The Japanese still make dirt bikes?  Who knew?  🤷‍♀️

 

Doc

  • Like 4
  • Haha 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, it could be a lot worse. Anyone looked at a car magazine or car website recently? The Japanese may not be putting a lot of development into off road bikes, but at least they're not completely dropping production on models (yet?) like they are with 4 door sedans. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Diverdown said:

Yeah very disappointing, just saw a new KX450XC. No wide ratio trans, no lights, itty bitty tank, WTF...

Yea the XC really doesn't make much sense, but Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki have all recently make bikes that have lights wide ratio trans, and big tank (except Suzuki). Why don't people buy these bikes? What's the problem with these bikes?

201-WR450-3.jpg.699ef57d4d6780554adc312cd0b8d3e4.jpg

2000000008.jpg.dca91cc9c76bfeffe9268cf29d1ff589.jpg

2000000003.jpg.be61b098e8d05bc4d5f4315e5b54e738.jpg

Edited by stupidmoto
  • Like 4
  • Confused 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Diverdown said:

Yeah very disappointing, just saw a new KX450XC. No wide ratio trans, no lights, itty bitty tank, WTF...

Other than the fuel tank being the same as the MX bike, the KX450XC is identical in build to a KTM 450XCF or CRF 450RX.

Only one with a wide ratio box is the YZ450FX.

And NONE of them have lights.

Kawasaki is built a bike to the same spec as the competition.  Nothing wrong with that.

  • Like 9

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, stupidmoto said:

Yea the XC really doesn't make much sense, but Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki have all recently make bikes that have lights wide ratio trans, and big tank (except Suzuki). Why don't people buy theses bikes? What's the problem with theses bikes?

201-WR450-3.jpg.699ef57d4d6780554adc312cd0b8d3e4.jpg

2000000008.jpg.dca91cc9c76bfeffe9268cf29d1ff589.jpg

2000000003.jpg.be61b098e8d05bc4d5f4315e5b54e738.jpg

Heavy.

Heavier.

Heaviest.

But in reality, the regular MX or XC bike is cheaper than these and a lot of people don't care about being "trail legal" or don't need to be.

Add in the fact that frankly, the Suzuki is old, and the Honda soon will be (because just like the 450X before it, it isn't going to be updated for years) many people don't want to spend the $ on a new bike that is "outdated."  As for the Yamaha, many people don't want to buy a bike that supposedly needs parts right off the bat due to emission rules to run to it's potential.  Doesn't matter if it is true or not, or if it would even make a difference.  Perception is reality.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, stupidmoto said:

Yea the XC really doesn't make much sense, but Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki have all recently make bikes that have lights wide ratio trans, and big tank (except Suzuki). Why don't people buy theses bikes? What's the problem with theses bikes?

201-WR450-3.jpg.699ef57d4d6780554adc312cd0b8d3e4.jpg

2000000008.jpg.dca91cc9c76bfeffe9268cf29d1ff589.jpg

2000000003.jpg.be61b098e8d05bc4d5f4315e5b54e738.jpg

I overlooked all these bike b/c I simply don't need a 450 in the woods, but I wanted more than a 250. That left KTM, Husqvarna and Beta and I chose a 350XC-F. I don't see myself ever going back to a 450. I also don't need headlight and taillight, just an 18 out back, a larger tank, and a kickstand. And, a 6 speed box is nice. HOWEVER, I'd have seriously considered either a Honda or Yamaha if they decided to play in the 350ish market. However, I also prefer chromoly frames. I've found the twin spar alum. to just be too rigid when riding trail trash. This is even after properly set up suspension and looking at it in my rearview mirror.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, stupidmoto said:

Yea the XC really doesn't make much sense, but Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki have all recently make bikes that have lights wide ratio trans, and big tank (except Suzuki). Why don't people buy theses bikes? What's the problem with theses bikes?

201-WR450-3.jpg.699ef57d4d6780554adc312cd0b8d3e4.jpg

2000000008.jpg.dca91cc9c76bfeffe9268cf29d1ff589.jpg

2000000003.jpg.be61b098e8d05bc4d5f4315e5b54e738.jpg

these are all good bikes im sure but they dont come street legal. the Euros make bikes like this that are plated. the WRs are excellent bikes.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’m French so I live in Europe and it’s hard to find Japanese dirt bike even in the official manufacture. For example I sell my Kawasaki 250 kxf 2020 to buy the 2021, the Kawasaki dealer take my bike at the beginning of September and I still wait since this day to receive the new one. My dealer is the bigger dealer of kx in France and he only have 25 dirtbikes per year. 
 

I ask him about other bike like klx he tells me that this kind of bike are not available in France. For example the range of dirtbike in France only include 450, 250 kxf and 65/85, 110 klx. In comparison with USA the range is smaller. Everyone in my country go for KTM because of the range, the quality and the options but I prefer Japanese bike that’s my childhood.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Enduro 2 strokes have made a big comeback recently and the Euros make alot of those and the Euro 2 strokes are easy to plate in alot of places. the only Japanese brand to make one is Yamaha. having said that the YZ 125 and 250x are good cheaper options to the Euros if you just want a solid bike and dont care about FI or electric start. i perfer low tech anyway.

  • Like 9

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
28 minutes ago, eastreich said:

Heavy.

Heavier.

Heaviest.

But in reality, the regular MX or XC bike is cheaper than these and a lot of people don't care about being "trail legal" or don't need to be.

Add in the fact that frankly, the Suzuki is old, and the Honda soon will be (because just like the 450X before it, it isn't going to be updated for years) many people don't want to spend the $ on a new bike that is "outdated."  As for the Yamaha, many people don't want to buy a bike that supposedly needs parts right off the bat due to emission rules to run to it's potential.  Doesn't matter if it is true or not, or if it would even make a difference.  Perception is reality.

I know three kids in their early 20s who have went out and bought brand new Japanese MX and XC bikes over the past year. The one kid paid $9200 OTD for a 2021 CRF250R, that's what I paid for my RMX, so no they really aren't that much cheaper anymore. This same kid complains how his 230 lbs 250F is "heavy" lol. People care about weight too much. Boo hoo just pick the bike up and keep riding. I love how people consider these 450 bikes with e-start and EFI bikes "old", but then people have no problem spending 10k on a 2 stroke Beta with a carburator, just to rip the OI off and struggling to get the jetting right for months. So that's better than removing a throttle stop from a WR and going riding?

27 minutes ago, Bryan II said:

I overlooked all these bike b/c I simply don't need a 450 in the woods, but I wanted more than a 250. That left KTM, Husqvarna and Beta and I chose a 350XC-F. I don't see myself ever going back to a 450. I also don't need headlight and taillight, just an 18 out back, a larger tank, and a kickstand. And, a 6 speed box is nice. HOWEVER, I'd have seriously considered either a Honda or Yamaha if they decided to play in the 350ish market. However, I also prefer chromoly frames. I've found the twin spar alum. to just be too rigid when riding trail trash. This is even after properly set up suspension and looking at it in my rearview mirror.

I certainly don't "need" a 450, but the ridability and service intervals are fantastic. A 350 would definitely be cool too. Too bad Suzuki made one 30 years ago and not now lol. I don't care for steel frames, I like the rigidity of aluminum frames, they're super predictable, you don't have to guess how the frame will react, because it won't.

  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, stupidmoto said:

 

I certainly don't "need" a 450, but the ridability and service intervals are fantastic. A 350 would definitely be cool too. Too bad Suzuki made one 30 years ago and not now lol. I don't care for steel frames, I like the rigidity of aluminum frames, they're super predictable, you don't have to guess how the frame will react, because it won't.

My 350 is a sharp handing bike, but w/o the harshness in trashy conditions that alum frames feel for me. Butt for every seat right! 😉

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, stupidmoto said:

I know three kids in their early 20s who have went out and bought brand new Japanese MX and XC bikes over the past year. The one kid paid $9200 OTD for a 2021 CRF250R, that's what I paid for my RMX, so no they really aren't that much cheaper anymore. This same kid complains how his 230 lbs 250F is "heavy" lol. People care about weight too much. Boo hoo just pick the bike up and keep riding. I love how people consider these 450 bikes with e-start and EFI bikes "old", but then people have no problem spending 10k on a 2 stroke Beta with a carburator, just to rip the OI off and struggling to get the jetting right for months. So that's better than removing a throttle stop from a WR and going riding?

I certainly don't "need" a 450, but the ridability and service intervals are fantastic. A 350 would definitely be cool too. Too bad Suzuki made one 30 years ago and not now lol. I don't care for steel frames, I like the rigidity of aluminum frames, they're super predictable, you don't have to guess how the frame will react, because it won't.

450s are great all around bikes, especaly if you have some road sections to connect your loop. i miss that about my Husky te 450 i used to ride. 2 strokes are terrible on the road.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, elrontx said:

450s are great all around bikes, especaly if you have some road sections to connect your loop. i miss that about my Husky te 450 i used to ride. 2 strokes are terrible on the road.

I have to ride a mile or two of roads to get my loop, and I ride a decent amount of open 2 track stuff, and my 450 can cruise nicely at 60mph. I kinda just took that for granted, I forgot that was even a thing.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
30 minutes ago, stupidmoto said:

I know three kids in their early 20s who have went out and bought brand new Japanese MX and XC bikes over the past year. The one kid paid $9200 OTD for a 2021 CRF250R, that's what I paid for my RMX, so no they really aren't that much cheaper anymore. This same kid complains how his 230 lbs 250F is "heavy" lol. People care about weight too much. Boo hoo just pick the bike up and keep riding. I love how people consider these 450 bikes with e-start and EFI bikes "old", but then people have no problem spending 10k on a 2 stroke Beta with a carburator, just to rip the OI off and struggling to get the jetting right for months. So that's better than removing a throttle stop from a WR and going riding?

I certainly don't "need" a 450, but the ridability and service intervals are fantastic. A 350 would definitely be cool too. Too bad Suzuki made one 30 years ago and not now lol. I don't care for steel frames, I like the rigidity of aluminum frames, they're super predictable, you don't have to guess how the frame will react, because it won't.

As someone that has come from Japanese 250/450 4 strokes to a herd of Beta 2 strokes, I can say with full confidence that the Beta is a better bike. More fun to ride, all the power you could ever want, and YES, the lighter weight matters. What also matters is the lack of rotating weight high in the engine with cams/valves, etc. the 2 stroke flicks between the trees with much less input from the rider. 

 

Ride what you like. Personally I think if the japanese went after the market segment that KTM/Husky/Beta/Sherco/TM have now, they could redeem themselves. 

  • Like 12

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...