After a rich and interesting 2008, it's time to have a look at 2009 and what it might bring to the motorcycle world. 2008 started out nice, and around the fall season, we saw many new motorcycle models, Rossi win (again) the MotoGP, and Ducati dominate almost every other road racing event. We also saw the cancellation of the Dakar race. But what will 2009 bring?
Obviously the economical and financial crisis is going to play a major part in next year's racing events. Already several races have slimmed down, or cancelled altogether.
Main stream motorcycle manufacturers will stop opening their purses for race sports, or at least stop the flow of money. Races will start having less money, less teams and more rules to diminish the cost of ownership.
According to financial and economic analysts, the real economical crisis is going to hit us towards March next year, when orders dry up for companies, unemployment reaches the highest levels since recording started.
So next year, I think we'll see several main manufacturers move out of racing altogether, and I for one will not be surprised to see BMW cancel their SuperBike efforts. Starting with a brand new motorcycle and team in an arena you've never been in, costs a lot of money, more than what it will bring. With a parent company being hit in car sales, money will become a trump card, and as any financial analyst will tell you: "cash is king". Racing burns money like nothing else, so we might not see a BMW at the start of the racing season. Personally, I'd prefer if they did race.
There are going to be less new models launched next year. Even if a bike is ready for sales, getting it to the market takes time, effort and mostly money. Launch parties, exhibitions, dealer models, fancy brochures - you name it, it all costs money. The manufacturers are better off holding on to their new bikes a year or two extra, waiting until the dust settles.
Current models will drop dramatically in price. Dealers, with help of their manufacturers and governments, will drop the sticker price 20-30% on some models. Stocks must go as soon as possible, and more and more incentives will be applied for you to get rid of your "older" motorcycle ad buy a new one.
On the positive side (yes, there are positive sides), with a sliding crude oil barrel price, riding motorcycles is really cheap again, so many will be making long and pleasurable rides. But because of economical worries, less and less people will be turning to cars, since the memory of high fuel price coupled with financial worries will move people to turn more and more to motorcycles. The sales of small displacement motorcycles, starting at 125cc, will gain grounds all over the world. What new models manufacturers introduce, most will be centered around 125's. It's cheap to make, cheap to operate and cheap to own. And it's fun.
But one of the more influential factors for driving people towards motorcycle and scooters, is the plethora of electric and ecological two wheelers coming out next year. 3 to 4 years ago, there where less electric motorcycles than what you could count of a one hand with 2 amputated fingers. In 2009 not only will we see some 30 low cost Asian electric scooters, but we will also see mainstream manufacturers introducing or releasing models with real electric power, or alternative fuel (like fuel cells or hybrids). Already big names like KTM and Honda have announced electric motorcycles, and current players like Vectrix and Zero are now into their next generation vehicles. We'll not see names like Ducati and Aprilia go for electric (yet), but I'll not be surprised to hear BMW announce that they are preparing one.
So, all-in-all, be prepared to see many new electric motorcycles & scooters next year, and a relevant price drop, making buying one of these a reality next year.
Governments are however going to step up their campaigns against people having fun, ie, riding motorcycles. First of all, speed-limits will be reducing even more, and more radar check points will be installed. Officially it serves as a speed deterrent, but in real life it's just another tax we need to pay. But that is for everyone:- cars, trucks and skateboarders. However, for us motorcycles riders, we'll become an easy target group for overzealous politicians. We'll get taxed more, radar photographed more, ticketed more, and we'll be forced to put number plates in the front motorcycle (so it can be easier to get our money). Despite more and more people turning to motorcycles, there just aren't enough to present a strong voting block to make politicians see the light.
So despite a gloomy outlook for 2009, it's still going to be interesting. There's going to be a shift in thinking towards motorcycles, but in essence, we'll still be able to ride our precious motorcycles, and have fun.
Let's see how wrong I am....