Monday, October 10, 2011

Is the NCR M4 'One-Shot' the perfect motorcycle for these times?

Unless you were at Brands Hatch all weekend, watching a riveting British Superbike final, you are probably aware that NCR -- a small, Italian, specialty sport-bike manufacturer -- unveiled the NCR M4 and it's even-higher-spec brother the 'One-Shot' during the Barber AHRMA weekend. These are motorcycles powered by tuned versions of a pretty low-tech air-cooled Ducati motor (think Monster 1100) but which embody Lotus founder Colin Chapman's famous dictum that, "First you design the [car], then you add lightness."
Recession? What recession? There's never been a better time to sell a $70,000 toy.
NCR is owned by Poggipolini -- a company that specializes in supplying magnesium, titanium, and carbon components to the motorsports industry -- so they've added plenty of lightness to both the 'base' model M4 (claimed weight: 286 pounds) and even more lightness to the One-Shot (claimed weight: 278 pounds.) One shot, indeed. That could just about describe my physical reaction to seeing the photos and reading the specs. Luckily,  I was home alone in front of my computer.

Talk about adding lightness! These things will also add some lightness to your wallet, since the base model is $50k and the One-Shot is $70k. So far, NCR has released only American pricing, which gives you some idea of where they expect to do the bulk of their sales.

You might think that with the U.S. mired in a deep recession -- one that hit the American motorcycle industry especially hard -- NCR is pretty crazy to think that we'll be snapping up $70k motorcycles which, as beautiful as they are, will certainly not help the average mid-life-crisis track day geek or trust-fund baby lap any faster than he would on an eight year-old GSX-R750.

On closer examination though, the One-Shot is actually the perfect motorcycle for these times.

You see, it's true that the large majority of American families have seen a steady erosion of their wealth and purchasing power over the last decade or more. But middle-class families'  wealth has not disappeared, it's merely been transferred to the richest 1% of the U.S. population and especially to the richest point one percent.

After the release of (I'll pick an arbitrary point in history) the 1986 GSX-R750, sport bike fans found themselves in an amazing situation. Any average Joe with an average job could afford to buy a motorcycle with a performance envelope that, if you wanted to find it in a car, you would've had to be a millionaire.

Although anyone who was really looking could see that Americans were on an unsustainable spending spree buoyed by an obvious bubble in the housing market (and irrational optimism in the stock market) that halcyon period lasted more than 20 years.

Now, it's over. If the average Joe has a job today, he's hunkered down and not wasting money on new motorcycles.

But things have never been better for the very richest Americans. When that first Gixxer was introduced, the average CEO made about 75 times the salary of the average worker in his company. Now, he pulls in about five hundred times the average worker's wage.

So the 99.9% of motorcycle buyers who never could have afforded the One-Shot, still can't. The wealthiest 0.1% of Americans -- the only ones who were ever going to buy it -- have more money than ever. And with the Republiban, oops, make that 'Republican' Party in control of the legislature, there's no prospect of even people earning a million-plus per year being asked to pay forward the opportunities that America provided to them.

Recession? What recession? NCR has perfect grasp of the American motorcycle buying public's ability to afford the One-Shot. The only people who ever could have afforded it can afford it more than ever.

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