Friday, July 5, 2024

Retro motorcycles aren't going away

 The market for retro motorcycles like those from Royal Enfield will show strong growth between now and 2030, according to HTF Market Intelligence, a market research company in India. 

The retro motorcycle market "will witness a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 12.46% during the forecast period," it calculates. That's an increase of $98.34 billion over its current $56.9 billion market value. 

The report considers Royal Enfield, BSA, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Moto Guzzi, Triumph, BMW, Ducati, and Royal Alloy. 

It defines the retro motorcycle market as "a niche segment within the broader motorcycle industry that focuses on recreating the design aesthetics and styling cues of motorcycles from past eras, typically the mid-20th century. 

"These motorcycles are characterized by their vintage-inspired designs, which often evoke nostalgia and a sense of classic craftsmanship." 

The market is driven by its nostalgic appeal to older riders, but also by the appeal of retro styling to younger people.

The report states that, to compete, manufacturers will have to incorporate "advanced electronics, lightweight materials, and sustainable powertrains while retaining the timeless styling that defines retro motorcycles."

That won't be easy.

They will have to do this while competing with modern looking motorcycles, which, of course, will include all those features without the burden of limits on styling.

As an example I think of Royal Enfield's move toward water cooling with its new 450cc motor. Water cooling is more efficient, but it loses the graceful cooling fins seen on Royal Enfield's 350cc and 650cc air-cooled motors. 

The 450cc motor thus looks dull, in comparison, and is wisely delivered painted black to reduce its visual impact.

And as for putting modern features into retro motorcycles, even today Royal Enfield is criticized for offering motorcycles that don't include the latest features.

In fact, Royal Enfield has come a long way. Consider that my 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet lacked electric start, disc brakes, ABS, fuel injection, electronic ignition, and five or six-speed gearbox. All these features and many more are on today's "retro" Royal Enfields.

One more thing: realistically, retro motorcycles will also have to compete with the growing market for electric motorcycles, which, as something new, never had any particular style to be nostalgic about. 

Consumer preference for clean, quiet, reliable, and uncomplicated electrics will only grow as they improve. Will a Royal Enfield even be a Royal Enfield without the "thump" of internal combustion?

The full report can be ordered on line. Cost is $3,500.

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