The story of Tesla is nothing short of an epic startup journey. A visionary entrepreneur, a new approach in a conventional industry, a technologically advanced product, an even bigger promise of the future and you have a story that will be told for decades if not centuries. Tesla didn’t invent the electric car. Neither did it change how we drive (yet). Yet it managed to stir things up significantly, at least in its home market.
It has managed to sell the promise of more cars than the number of units some of the best selling cars in US shift over a year. And don’t forget the price difference. Most of the popular cars cost somewhere around USD 25K while the Model 3 will be priced north of USD 32K. Tesla has made the other car makers get up from their chairs and put their people at work to do things, even without will, that the seemingly cottage industry company is doing. Chevrolet is expressing happiness on the response of Tesla Model 3, hoping that people will queue up for their Bolt electric car. In all possibility, the people at Chevy are just kidding themselves as it is very likely the Bolt won’t get even a fraction of the response.
But why is it all important? And why is it important when the topic clearly says that we will be talking about motorcycles, not cars? Short answer, wake up call. Long answer, keep reading.
You see, the automobile industry has been more or less the same for a very long time. The legacy players have been around for so many decades that we have lost count and they were all settled down in similar processes. Some new brands emerged over the years but they were able to scale up only because they stepped up in their growing local markets. Imagine Mahindra & Mahindra starting to build in Detroit. Would have been eaten up for breakfast by Ford probably.
The motorcycle industry has been pretty much the same, a bit worse due to smaller audience in developed markets. No doubt brands are innovating at the top end of the spectrum but there is a pattern to it. X adds better traction control, Y adds better traction control with more options. While this is crucial to make them safer while adding speed, we see many developments in car industry that are yet to be seen in motorcycle industry.
The tech startup like approach of Tesla changed many things, development cycle being the very first. From drawing board to the actual product on the road, Tesla has been reckless. Mind you, mastering the suspension and driving dynamics takes years and Tesla pulled it off right in just few months. Motorcycle companies are still stuck on their lazy cycles. Instead of the fail fast approach, they are still taking their own sweet time.
Connectivity is another challenge. The German carmakers are picking the good bits from Tesla and making their car better connected and more communicative to the user. With motorcycle companies, forget over the air software fixes, they don’t even allow users to access the data motorcycle has. Riders in general have better understanding of their machines than drivers. The only motorcycles I can think of that provide genuinely useful riding data are track specials. Why won’t they just add Bluetooth to keep the motorcycle data synced in phone and double up as a track day recorder?
Another thing is open source. We built an engine that is cleaner, greener and faster than everything else. No we won’t let you use that even if it means a lot for the mankind. That is how the car industry has been working until now and Tesla opened up its patents to raise the bar for everyone. While it was a good marketing move too, there is no denying that other brands, especially the young ones, will be able to use their learnings and technologies to create even better products which will help in long run. This hit other car makers too and they are collaborating on things like car sharing and driverless cars to speed up the progress of industry. In motorcycle industry, errr. Why can’t they work in better harmony to achieve better results rather than burning resources and time separately?
That is why we need a brand like Tesla in two wheeler space. A brand with the potential to shuffle the top order, show people the array of possibilities, get the industry to join forces- even if against the newbie and work towards the greater good of improving the overall riding experience. This would also attract new segments of customers like with Tesla and force the players to put their foot forward, even to do things they might not want to. We have recently witnessed the arrival of a new player called Ultraviolette that seems to have the potential but it would be too early to pass a verdict. Kickstarter projects like Skully shouldn’t be the voice of the future, at least not alone. Big brands with massive R&D budgets should be. And that is exactly what we are asking for.