NEW YORK, NY, JAN 20 –American Honda didn’t make news with the unveiling of the NC700X to the North American audience at the International Motorcycle Show in New York. After all, the world debut was over two months ago at the EICMA show in Milan. What was newsworthy was that this versatile, hard to pigeonhole motorcycle would sell with a fire sale price tag of just over half the cost of a Honda CBR600RR.
The Honda NC700X, and a variant with a Dual Clutch Transmission and Combined ABS, works on a variety of levels. With an estimated fuel economy of around 70-75 mph, the NC700X is the perfect commuter. But it’s also a good all-arounder and one that doesn’t mind long distances or twisty roads. And the ergonomics make it attractive to riders who’d rather not contort into a fetal position for a trip of any length, a group that includes riders new to motorcycling which the industry desperately needs to attract. And all for only $6999 for the standard model when it goes on sale this summer. By comparison the Honda CBR600RR has an MSRP of $11,540.
We caught up with American Honda Senior Vice President Ray Blank at the Javits Center on Manhattan’s west side to ask him how they could sell the NC700X at that price point.
How can Honda sell the NC700 at that price point?
We have a lot of combined technologies using (Honda) FIT (auto) components that allow us to be able to build an engine that has very high quality. Also great mileage. It's a bike really very much for today and to be able to get it to a price and, price is so important in the market, to be able to get it to a level of economy, to be able to do all the kinds of things that something like this has to have happen it has to take technology from a lot of different areas. So that helps in the amortization of the total cost. And in that we're able to bring it down to really a market-beating price. And then for this customer, who would be new, possibly reentry, or a commuter, it covers a lot of ground. So we think that the volume could be large enough to support the costs too. It's appropriate for North America, it's very European in its value areas, and all in all we think that probably global quantity coupled with the automotive technology that goes in, coupled with the fact that a dual clutch model will be available too, so that people who want automatic or who are intrigued by dual clutch, all of those things together are going to make the volume allow us to produce it at that price. And then on top of it all the novel features of the carrying capacity in Japan called “met-in” for helmet in, will really make a lot of difference for a lot of people. It's pretty utility oriented, the thinking behind it.
..it's made based on all the research we have on the X and Y generation customer who has a completely different set of values than the traditional standard enthusiast.
There is some evidence that the high-end and low-end motorcycles are selling, but not the mid-price bikes. How does that affect this model?
It's low-end in price and middle to high-end in term of features values. Performance is going to be interesting too. The red line is relatively low. The redline is under 6500, but it's very high torque. So in terms of ease of riding it's really got it there. And a lot of newer riders or reentry riders know when they get into a hill situation—a stoplight on a hill—it's pretty hard to take off. It doesn't matter if you have a 125 hp in-line four 600cc, feathering the clutch and all of that. With a high torque/low rpm concept like this, you can almost let the clutch out, just let it kind of idle up the thing like that. It's very easy to ride and that fits too very well in terms of compatibility with the dual clutch transmission. So you can do either the automatic transmission or you can shift it yourself. I think overall there's so many different features to it that it's really kind of hard to find a presentation platform. Because normally you're selling, OK this is high-performance, this is a dirt bike, and the reason why it's NC is that it's a totally new concept. It's just a different way just to think about motorcycles. And it's really made based on all the research we have on the X and Y generation customer who has a completely different set of values than the traditional standard enthusiast.
Does it require a different marketing strategy?
We’ll do a lot more viral promotion in terms of marketing and promotions with it. We’re going to try to make it available to a different market, through different means. If we simply advertised either on SPEED channel or in glossy monthly enthusiast magazines we wouldn't necessarily reach the target audience because that's not where they are. We will put it into different kinds of locations. It's almost a kind of bike that you could put in the middle of a mall and attract people, and then once they start to see what the features are that it has…it's all a bit difficult for us because we’re so used to traditional motorcycle marketing and we have to think way outside the box. And we have to think how we can make it available to people to make them understand that. The real advantage, I think, is that many times with the new concept, even for ourselves—I think the DN01 was a little bit difficult motorcycle to understand—we've always believed that comprehensibility is a very important aspect of motorcycle marketing. The nice thing about this, even though it's a new concept, it's comprehensibility is very high. Well, it's got storage space. Well, you can get it with DCT. Well, it gets almost 70 miles per gallon. Well, it's very easy a ride. It's not too hard to figure out. So it will have plenty of places to make it available.
Will it cannibalize other models in your line?
I don't think there's anything like it anywhere else right now. I don't think there's any other motorcycle that you would say, ‘Oh now that that's out that's going to kill this over here.’ Instead, it's either a stepping stone...if somebody started off, for example, on a CB250R, small, inexpensive, light bike, this could be a move up. For maybe an older rider, who’s maybe not ready to go any further on in high-performance sport, this is a place to come back to. For brand new people coming in it's a good starting point. It kind of answers a lot of different directions.