November 25 2007.
Ian Kerr reporting from press and trade day at the International Motorcycle Show.
Anybody who has been to the show on press and trade day will agree that the move back to the original halls first used when the show went to the NEC has certainly changed the look and feel of the show. The move to site all the manufacturers in one area has allowed the public to move effortlessly from one stand to another and directly compare one model against a rival manufacturers' products.
Good for the public undoubtedly, and it has allowed the shrewd marketer like Tony Jakeman at BMW to practice his craft. Sited opposite KTM, best known of course as the brand for the serious off-road enthusiast, the BMW stand just happens to have the off-road and adventure bikes on the side of its stand opposite KTM. This means that its brand new, and very serious, G450X can be compared directly to those similar models from the Austrian factory. Nice one!
Although the show has been full of celebrities from the world of motorcycle sport and TV, David Robb, the Head of Design for BMW Motorrad, and the man largely responsible for design at BMW was to be seen on the stand on press day. In fact may top brass could be found all over the show in the first few days, showing how important the UK show is now becoming in the world market.
KTM of course actually had a world launch on press day for its new 990 Supermoto, while other manufacturers were just debuting 2008 models previously seen elsewhere at recent European shows. With its super-lightweight LC8 twin now enlarged to a full 999cc and complete with a fuel injection system, performance levels have apparently increased considerably. Modifications to the exceptionally light chassis will ensure that the bike's 115 horses can be controlled with ease, further adding to the already exceptional reputation of the previous model.
KTM Managing Director, Shaun Sisterson, was in buoyant mood, especially with the first UK showing of the RC8. "We have a really good range of bikes now and the move towards the road machines is devloping the brand name, although we will of course always support the off-road side of things, as it is our heritage."
Asked about the OX-Bow car, he stated that this would be handled outside the motorcycle trade and run separately...
Another first for the show is the Benelli stand. A well known industry figure, who is well pleased with the interest in the very packed stand, was Glyn Fisher. Now representing Benelli after many years at the show with his former employers Kawasak,i he said, "We actually designed and built this stand ourselves, but the effort has been worthwhile, given the interest it is attracting from the trade and public alike."
While not actually in hall one, the Benelli display is just above it, and show visitors have to walk through it to get to and from the stairs, during which time they can view the whole range of Benelli machinery, including the brand new BX570 Motard and the BX505 Enduro machine. "Hopefully people will now realise that it is not all top end premium product, and it is affordable!" joked Fisher.
Staying Italian, Ducati is making the best of its World Championship victory, with the Desmosedici race bike taking centre stage on the stand, which is actually well away from the other manufacturers. This has not stopped it being besieged with visitors checking out, not only the race bike, but also the stunning 848 and the new entry level Monster. Pressman Alan Jones is happy with the levels of interest away from the rest. "We have an excellent range with some excellent bikes and people will come and find us no matter where we are. After not being here last year due to the shows clashing, we are glad to be back!" he added.
Aprilia and Moto Guzzi are not exhibiting this year, although Marketing Manager, Miles Taylor was present for Press and Trade day, no doubt assessing the show for next year.
British manufacturer CCM has its brand-new CMX 450 on display in the main hall. This stunning new bike will, they hope, thrust the company back into top flight motocross. This revolutionary machine features a bonded aluminium chassis and a carbon fibre sub-frame, both of which could find their way onto some of its now pretty extensive range of bikes in the future. CCM also showed a utility quad machine for the first time.
A new British firm, Megelli, made its show and UK debut with a range of machines designed and engineered in the UK, but built in the Far East. The range of three machines use 125cc motors from SYM in Taiwan, mounted in trellis-style frames. "We have certainly been getting a lot of attention from riders of all ages," commented Neil Graham, who is in charge of global sales. "Interest is good and it seems to be serious, as opposed to just based out of curiosity," he concluded.
Royal Enfield also saved a new model launch for the show. Although not the same company that exhibited when the UK show started at Earls Court so many years ago, it can claim to be showing machines based on a 1949 model Bullet, which was shown at the 1949 show.
The 'Woodsman' has a high-level exhaust attached to the 500cc powerplant and trail-bike styling, along with a single seat, and will be on sale in the Spring of 2008.
Staying British, Avon Tyres launched the new Cobra range of tyres aimed at the touring, cruiser and custom market. The tyre is claimed to improve manoeuvrability at both low and high speeds.
Moving away from bikes, Knox, the protection specialists, launched two new products on its stand, which won the Best Retail Stand Award and 10% of next year's price! The 'Six Pack' is a brand-new back pack that combines carrying with back protection, while the AEGIS is a brand new back protector that Knox hope addresses riders' concerns about these essential items.
Helmet guru and trade veteran Andy Wall, who is now representing the Nolan group of companies, was showing the brand new Mike Hailwood replica helmet. Officially licensed along with a Johhny Ceccoto replica, he was amazed as to how many show-goers did not know who these great riders were, despite being aged over 40...
"We have a great range of products, including helmets that take intercoms and blue tooth, without the need to modify the shell or linings, for under £200. The dealer can then sell the fitments to upgrade to full communications spec and add another £200 onto the bill. Add in a pillion system as well and you can easily have a sale of £800, where they would not actually contemplate buying two £400 helmets!"
Another Industry veteran of many a UK show, Dave Martin of Acumen was in full flow over his excellent, new chain oiling system, that looks to be smaller and neater than any other on the market. Brand new for him among his many electronic products was the Bluetooth intercom system for crash helmets. The fully waterproof system can be used on any make of helmet and enables phone calls to be taken on the move!
In the holiday/touring section, which has now established itself as an important area for the show, David Grist on the HC Travel stand was happy with the quality of enquiries. "We seem to have lots of serious enquiries for our trips, which are mainly outside Europe. It seems that people are looking for long-distance trips that either encompass stunning scenery and, or, an adventure element to them. Fortunately we can cover virtually all types of motorcycle holiday. Hopefully the standard of enquiry will continue throughout the rest of the show."
Safety is a big theme in the show, with various groups like the IAM, Bikesafe and others taking stand space. However, it is the new government backed 'Motorcycle Academy' which has come out of the THINK campaign that has literally taken centre stage. Taking the 'Best Trade Stand' award, the safety based stand has the likes of former BSB rider John Reynolds attracting fans to the stand, offering safety advice to all rider groups.
Although the show attendance figures are now rising after a slow start on preview day, show organiser Finlay McAllan feels too much emphasis is placed on these figures by exhibitors. "Surely it is about having a great show with serious buyers, rather than copious amounts of tyre kickers. People have got to look at themselves and how they actually market themselves to visitors and ask if they could actually service a massive extra demand, even if they got it. This year's pre show promotion and marketing has been some of the best ever and we have put a fresh face on the show. So it's up to the exhibitors to maximise the opportunities."