Motorcycles Goin? Global
Several years post WWII, I remember when ?Made in Japan? meant cheap, shoddy goods guaranteed to fall apart in short order, made in faceless factories by funny looking slave labor who ate cats for dinner. War stereotypes were hard to kill.
It?s interesting to see how time alters generational perceptions, because when a young person says ?Made in Japan? he means a high-quality product like a Lexus or Sony, and not a cheap item. They accept Japanese products as high in the ?value ratio?: quality divided by price.
As a kid I had small items like transistor radios, toys, and gadgets made in Japan, fascinated at the Japanese font when poking around inside the packaging, the exotic definition of ?foreign.? And usually most quickly fell apart. But they didn?t cost much, so not much harm was done.
(?Made in Japan?)
(As a child, this rocket crystal radio was my contact to the outside world. Alligator-clip to the metal bedframe for a ground, insert the ear bud then move the rocket antenna up and down to find those 50,000w ?flamethrower? AM radio stations, especially at night.)
Try to tell a young person about cheap items being made in Japan, and he?ll look at you like a space alien.
My first encounter with a paradigm-busting Japanese product was a Honda Cub 50, the most manufactured vehicle in world history. A staggering 87 million Cubs have been produced since 1957 in 15 countries. Think Soichiro Honda has worked out the bugs?
(Honda C90 Super Cub)
Honda single-handedly killed the British motorcycle industry in 1969 with the introduction of the world?s first super bike, the CB750. Before that, the Triumph Bonnevilles, BSA Lightnings and Norton Commando?s ruled the bad-ass motorcycle roost.
(1969 CB750, the world?s first SuperBike)
And it wasn?t just the incredible performance or price that won hearts of riders around the world, it was also the quality of these machines: they just didn?t break down like Brit iron, and they didn?t leak oil like Harley?s.
The Brits never recovered.
The American Harley-Davidson brand suffered mightily. In 1972, Harley had 100% of the US market over 1000cc. By 1982, they has 15%. Where I come from we call that a country boy ass-whoopin? and was so bad Harley begged politicians to add high import duties to Japanese motorcycles to help them survive.
Ditto Japanese cars coming to America. I remember the arrival of the funny looking Honda Civic followed by the Accord. In 5 years Honda was on top of American car sales for the same reason as Japanese motorcycles: incredible performance and quality at a very modest price. Consumers loved them and Detroit's glass chin took a mighty blow.
(In just 5 years, the Little Honda Civic CVCC drove a stake into the heart of the American automobile industry.)
I've lived in the motorcycle culture of the Dominican Republic since 2008. Out of 2.5 million registered vehicles in this small Caribbean nation 1.8 million are motorcycles with 99% under 200cc. The Chinese motorcycle invasion had been underway for years with Chinese Honda Cub and Yamaha Crypton clones everywhere. But closer examination showed serious flaws: poor quality components, fit and finish, guaranteed to fall apart as soon as the warranty expired. And they did. But these bikes were very inexpensive, an important consumer consideration in a poor country, and millions were sold.
But a funny thing has been happening in my 9 years here: Chinese quality has made enormous strides with fit and finish to nearly First-World standards, parts becoming standardized and of better quality with the bikes lasting much longer. And they?ve sold like crazy.
We live in a global economy where capitalism is no longer the domain of rich countries. Consumers in the Third World want the exact same product metrics as First Worlders: highest quality products at the most modest price possible. Competition has been fierce...and likely to become fiercer.
This competition has definitely impacted Chinese motorcycle brands. And while some consumers are slow to accept the ?New Age? of Chinese quality, many motorcycle addicts like myself see the quality of these machines increasing faster than price?with consumers getting the Win.
While some continue to lament ?cheap Chinese junk?, these same people are loathe to admit that some of the worlds top-quality brands, like Apple, Lenovo, Huawei and Haier are ?Made in China.?
Maybe it?s time we took off the blinders and judged products on their merits and not through our biases.