Thursday, March 28, 2013

Brand loyalty

Motorcycle.com just published a pre-release of a Consumer Reports Survey (link) that found that BMW and Harley-Davidson owners were much more likely to experience major problems with their bikes than owners of Japanese motorcycles, yet most BMW and H-D owners would buy that brand again.
“The survey, which will appear on the April 2013 issue of Consumer Reports, says one in three BMW owners reported experiencing a major problem with their bikes in the last four years. Harley-Davidson owners were slightly better, with one in four reporting serious issues. By contrast, only one in 10 Yamaha owners reported serious issues with Honda and Kawasaki owners having similar numbers.
And yet despite the issues, BMW and Harley-Davidson owners are more likely to buy their motorcycles again, if given the chance to do it over. According to the report, 75% of Harley-Davidson owners say they would definitely buy still (sic) their motorcycles if given the chance to make the decision again. BMW owners were nearly as loyal with 74% saying they would repeat their purchases, all things considered.
Honda owners were not far behind, with 72% saying they would make the same decision. Yamaha and Kawasaki owners were less emphatic. Despite reporting better reliability, only 63% of Yamaha owners would buy their motorcycles again. Only 60% of Kawasaki owners would make the same choice.
The article goes on to say that “reliability is only one of the factors that goes into deciding on a motorcycle purchase”. That’s true, but I think they are missing the key point and that is that the Japanese motorcycles are, for all intents and purposes, interchangeable. And I say that as a prior owner of numerous Japanese motorcycles over the years. Sure there are model differences between and among manufacturers from year to year but whether I owned a Honda or a Kawasaki or a Yamaha was of no importance to me. I had a Kawasaki 900 Z1, a Honda CB550, a Yamaha 350LC among others, each bought because that particular model appealed to me at that particular time for one reason or another. So if I had a brand loyalty at all (and I’m not sure I did) it was to Japanese, or metric, bikes and not to a specific marque. And if only “60% of Kawasaki owners would make the same choice” the other 40% would, I’d suggest, be looking at another metric bike and not a BMW, Harley-Davidson, or Moto-Guzzi.
So I would suggest that a better comparison would be between Harley-Davidson, BMW, Japanese motorcycles collectively, possibly British motorcycles (basically Triumph now with a few Nortons thrown in) and maybe Italian (Ducati, Moto-Guzzi). I think those are the major ‘brands’ from a loyalty perspective.
Thoughts?

19 comments:

  1. I know 0 about motorcycles other than what I like to look at, but I am not surprised by this report.

    I think Japanese cars and cycles are excellent, but it's hard to think BMW as being any less excellent. However, several of the real motorheads I know (car and cycle) have referred to Harleys as "junk". That surprised me, but I guess the romance of the brand and the meaning of it carries on.

    But I have a Honda Met scooter. What do I know... ;^i

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    1. Like the Mac versus PC debates there's a lot of religious fervor out there both for and against specific brands for real or perceived reasons. The reality is that no modern motorcycle can be really termed to be 'junk'. All are quality machines that just meet different rider needs - even Honda scooters. :)

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    2. I figured that as popular as the Harley is and as much as it is used and abused and enjoyed by so, so many people, that there had to be something deeply good about the machine.

      Some people just like to crank on other's preferences.

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  2. Is it brand loyalty or Branding? The fact that BMW and Harley owners reported more problems yet were willing to purchase again speaks of a need to wear the most in "designer label" to me ... owners of Japanese bikes are perhaps less likely to care what kind or what they look like as long as they run well from place to place (we buy our clothes at Walmart too!)

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    1. You might be right in that the choice of ride often brands the rider as much as anything, although I think that is definitely changing as well. (I seem to recall reading that the largest demographic for H-D riders has now become middle-aged professionals - no more bad boy types except maybe wannabes.) And BMW riders have long been viewed as latte-sipping yuppies, which is also changing with the more adventure-styled offerings coming from BMW. Certainly one way to look at it.

      I won't get into the Walmart debate other than to say that never shall my shadow cross their threshold.

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    2. Absolutely - the biggest demographic for Harley is middle aged professionals ... Harely has done a wonderful, pull themselves out of the gutter, marketing campaign - selling the 'life' to baby boomers who only dreamed of being 'bad boys'...and as far as the BMW image goes... yup, they still seem to ride on their elitest image for the same crowd.
      When it comes to four wheels - after trying all the NA brands I'm far happier with my Korean model (more bang for the buck.) It's all about economics (clothes or wheels) for me: if it works and it fits then I'll buy it - I don't care who else is wearing what!

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  3. Canajun:

    I tend to buy mainstream products with lots of service support. I have owned Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki so I know that they are reliable. I don't think I would ever own a Ducati, Motoguzzi or Aprilia to name a few.

    I have read on many forums about driveline failures and spline problems, ABS pump failures & fuel strip problems with BMW, but I bought my R1200R because I wanted once in my life to ride a BMW. I hope I have good luck with it. I intend to use it for a couple of years and then go back to a generic Japanese model.

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

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    1. A good local dealer can make a big difference in choice of ride, and a bad local dealer can also turn one off the marque completely. For example I used to be a big Chevy guy until a local Chevy dealer screwed me over in serving my '79 'Vette and GM stood by their dealer. I have never owned or even contemplated buying a Chevy product in the 30 years since that happened.

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  4. I chose HD because I wanted an American bike and because I'm a big guy. I dwarfed the Honda 750 I owned before my Road King. As far as reliability goes, I can only tell you what I've experienced. Last year I took my HD on a 2-week, 2800 mile ride with zero mechanical problems. Long rides every day. Not a drop of oil lost or a single screw loosened. That's impressive. And at 55 years of age I am unlikely to purchase another motorcycle. But I am happy with my choice.

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    1. Agreed. I have had no issues with my H-D after about 35,000 miles and am happy with my choice from that perspective. But then I never had any issues with any of my other bikes either, except for the Nortons because they were all cursed with Lucas (Prince of Darkness) electrics.

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  5. I think VStar Lady is on to something. Of late, Mercedes has been a not so good product, yet in people's mind Mercedes are gold. On the other hand, Ford has been putting very good reliable cars out for sometime now, yet I still hear people refer to them as "Fix-Or-Repair-Daily". Perception.

    Also, No Name hits on something. Most of the folks I know who take good care of their Harleys, their Harleys take good care of them.

    Me? My bikes are both Taiwanese. Oh well.
    ~k

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    1. There is certainly an image projected by owning a Mercedes, and that is an attractant for sure. And I have been the very happy owner of several Ford products in spite of their bad (and very outdated) quality rep. So I think that's a real factor - what does my choice of motorcycle or car say about me?

      Not sure where Taiwanese bikes would fit; perhaps the category should be Asian rather than Japanese.

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  6. I am pretty basic when choosing a bike. In no particular order.........

    Do I like the looks? Can I just thumb the starter and drive away? Does it have a reliable history? Easy & inexpensive to maintain? Can I touch flat foot? Done.

    My mom and brother were die hard Harley fans and my brother actually worked for Harley for 20 years and for that reason I will probably never own one. Sick to death of hearing about them and seeing the paraphernalia that goes with it. Although if someone were to give me an XR1200 I wouldn't turn it down, lol.

    I think it all comes down to personal preference. If you feel the love with a bike/brand then you are more apt to stay with that brand. If I had nothing but problems with a brand I don't know how loyal I'd be.

    Just my two cents.

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    1. I'm with you on the XR1200!

      Everyone approaches buying a new bike differently but as you said, regardless of any other features and/or functions your personal bias would be against H-D. It could equally be the other way around. But when you're shopping I expect you would only look at bikes that are already part of your brand preference group, in other words you probably wouldn't follow a visit to the Honda dealer with a trip across town to check out the latest Ducatis.

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  7. Reliability and British motorbikes?

    My list of British motorbikes began with a BSA C11G at 17 years old then a BSA C12, BSA C15, BSA B25 Starfire (250cc), Triumph T20 Tiger Cub (200cc), Royal Enfield Continental GT (250cc, Cafe Racer style with clip-ons and rear-sets).

    After passing my motorbike test on a 250cc (recite the highway code, ride around the block and then do an emergency stop when the city-suited examiner steps out from behind a parked car - although you could already see his gleaming polished shoes from a block away), a Panther 120 (650) with sidecar, Triumph Thunderbird 6T (650cc), Norton Commando Fastback (750cc) with Paul Dunstall megaphone exhausts and then a Royal Enfield Bullet (500cc).

    All rubbish bikes - but the Commando with the Featherbed frame had the best handling of them by far.

    Why were they all rubbish?

    Seized pistons, leaking primary chaincase housings, square crossply tires, awful handling, noisy - not the exhaust sounds - but due to various bits vibrating loose and finally falling off, intermittent electrics, stoplights blowing continously due to vibration, aluminium mudguards slapping around and finally tearing off due to vibration, half an hour to start in the morning after tickling the Amal carbs so that petrol dribbles down onto your hand and down your sleeve and then jumping on the kickstart until you're sweating like a pig on in somebody's front garden - the list goes on and on...

    No wonder most bikers back in the late 60's went to the pub in the evening on their Triumphs and BSAs but always went to work on Honda 50's and 90's to make sure that they got to work on time!

    Yes, in the days when I wanted to look like a biker, British was best but now I don't care about image, I go for Japanese reliability, start-first-time-ability, simple easy maintenance, etc, etc, etc.

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    1. LOL. You just listed all the reasons I owned Nortons! The 3 things I liked about the one I had longest, a '74 Commando, were its looks, its sound (Dunstall exhaust), and its handling. But I never, ever went anywhere without a collection of tools, spare bulbs, and someone riding tail to pick up the various bits as they fell off. It may have been fun (at least in hindsight) when I was in my 20's but now I agree, reliability is key.

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    2. Yes, the 750 Commando - not a bad bike. Oh yeah, I forgot one thing about British bikes - the clean bit of rag behind the oil tank to wipe the oil off your boots and hands before meeting your mates in the pub! Commando's were one of the best handling bikes, in fact while checking your jacket for pub money, you could belt them around roundabouts at 50mph using only your legs on the tank for steering (with the throttle grip screw tightened). When CB750 Fours turned up at the pub, Brit bikers pointed at them and smiled at each other and said, "Yeah, well they're not going to last - look at all that cheap chrome. Brit bikes will always rule!" The problem was that after 60 years, one needed to move on with the times and improve reliability but they never got round to it.

      As for Bonnevilles - one of the worst bikes EVER made and I was continually fixing the electrics on them for my biking mates. Only newbies in the late 60's would buy a Bonneville. A late 50's T110 Tiger or Thunderbird 650 with Hepolite Hi-Comp pistons were OK though. A lot of them were made into choppers with reversed 8-stud heads so that twin Amal carbs with bell mouths could point forward into the wind - ram-air style - with twisted chrome slash-cut exhaust pipes from the rear. What's sad is that what's left over from those days (if not in a landfill site somewhere) are now exchanged these days as 'British Collector's Bikes' when in fact they're some of the poorest examples around. Cor, I sound really grumpy but really! What a waste of machinery! So much was lost forever. The frames and chrome plating on Brit bikes was dead solid and could be hit with a hammer without impairment, whereas early Jap bike frames could be bent if you simply sat on them too heavily! I must stop reminiscing now - those halycon days are over... :-)

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  8. Maybe its just the style of bike. HD doesn't make sport bikes as does Yamaha or Kawasaki. Cruisers are the main purchase. I never had a major breakdown but I have had a little trouble with the trike...not the softail or sportsters. I've never been able to fit a sport bike, just too short so I can't speak for those.

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    1. True, except for the Buell which, I suppose, wasn't really considered a sports bike. I'm not sure what you consider to be "a little trouble" but I expect that's possible with virtually any particular piece of machinery out there. That's when you find out how good your warranty/dealer really is.

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