Cycle News

Cycle News 2011 Issue 23 Jul 19

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 64 of 95

INTERVIEW P64 RAY BLANK THE ECONOMY, RACING AND HONDA Is Honda coming back to AMA road racing? Don't bet on it. BY PAUL CARRUTHERS R ay Blank is American Honda's senior vice president. It's not an easy job in the best of times, so it's definitely not an easy job in the current economic environment. Motorcycle sales are down by some 50 percent and although the bleeding has stopped, the recovery won't be easy. And it definitely won't be quick. We caught up with Blank recently to talk about the current state of the industry. How we got to where we are and what Honda is doing to try and get things back on track. And one more thing: When, or if, is the Big H coming back to AMA Superbike racing? We all know the industry has been struggling, but is there any good news? Anything that gives you a sense of optimism? I think you can find sunshine wherever you go and you can find rain wherever you go. It depends on what you're looking for. The industry has traditionally been supported by a discretionary income 64-70 Blank Interview.indd 64 type of customer – we don't have a transportational market. This isn't Southeast Asia where motorcycles are the dependent vehicles. As a recreational market, in general, we're going to have more of a tough time than others in an economy like we have now. We had it a little bit worse when the money was a little bit tighter; we had it certainly better when the housing market was better. And gasoline [prices] has a positive and a negative influence on us. You have the two-percent solution situation here. You have 50 different factors and basically the industry is flat right now. Some areas are a little bit better right now… for example, onroad entry-level products like the CBR250 that we just introduced. It's doing great. Conversely, some more expensive product like the CB1000R is doing well – a new introduction. Those are two completely different market segments: one of them not hurt so bad by discretionary income and another one not influenced so much because perhaps the buyer is a little bit more mature and a little bit better off. In general, the industry is flat because of some very obvious reasons. What effect have the catastrophes that occurred in Japan had on the industry? It hasn't had a major affect on production. I think that it might have, had production for all the OEs been at pre-laymen shock levels. If you went back to 2004, 2005 or 2006 and the same tragedy occurred, the impact would have been much greater because production was much higher. What has Honda been doing differently in this economy to drive traffic, to drive sales? We've had different types of promotions. We've probably tried to use viral marketing more than before, but I think it's the same as everybody else. I think everyone is trying new and different things and they are having a greater or lesser success… again it's very 7/15/11 3:44 PM

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