Although there are some exceptions, historically motorcycle manufacturers showcase their new models in November, ahead of sales in the new year.
These bikes usually debut to the public at the big motorbike shows in Cologne and Milan, before being seen at our own Motorcycle Live, at the NEC in Birmingham, at the end of the month.
But why is this the case? We took a look at some of the reasons…
Traditionally factories shut down for two weeks over the summer holidays. Italy is well known for shutting down for most of August, while British company Triumph also enjoys a fortnight off during the school holidays.
The reason for these factory shutdowns is to allow production workers to take their holidays at the same time, as by their very nature an assembly line cannot function with staff having flexible time off.
This two-week break has also historically been used as an opportunity to retool the production line, meaning that when the workers return they will switch to building the new models. Which brings us to…
When a manufacturer builds a new model the first bikes off the production line are generally used for marketing purposes. These will be the bikes that journalists get to try out on press launches, and which will go to the shows.
The first customer bikes are likely to be dispatched to the furthest away markets, meaning that bikes built in September will sit in shipping containers for up to three months as they make their way to dealerships – so a bike landing in a British dealership in January or February was probably built some three or four months earlier.
As well as the benefit of launching new bikes at the big shows, getting new bikes in the showroom in the winter months makes sense.
Motorcycling is a seasonal activity for many and clearing out current stock in the summer months makes sense, in order to allow the latest and greatest new models to be in the showrooms for the start of peak buying season in the spring.
But it’s changing…
In recent years, manufacturers have started to change their launch patterns. Sure, the majority of new models are still emerging in November but there’s been a trend recently of new bikes arriving during the summer months.
This year has seen Yamaha launch several new models, including the YZF-R1, in the summer, while we also saw Triumph (Street Triple RS) and BMW (Rnine T variants) among the new bikes we saw.
This is, in part, down to a move away from the old manufacturing processes and an understanding from manufacturers that they can gain more publicity in the media by launching new bikes away from the big shows – giving them more front pages and social media coverage than when they share the limelight with the other makes out there. Globalisation has also played its part. Manufacturers now sell their wares all around the world, where seasonality is less of an issue than it is in the traditional European markets.