If not now, when?
Everybody wants to know when Suzuki’s going to get serious about an electric motorcycle, and now we have the answer: We’ll see a Suzuki battery bike when the buyer is ready. At least, that’s the official line from the company’s extremely cautious bigwigs.
The comment comes from an interview published in the Financial Express with Suzuki’s VP of Marketing and Sales for India Devashish Handa. The back-and-forth was mostly about Suzuki’s plans for sales in the post-coronavirus world, but at the end of it all, Handa had a few comments on Suzuki’s plans for electric motorcycles. Sure, the company is working on electric motorcycle plans (he declined to share any juicy details), but he hardly sounded bullish on the idea.
“We are watching the space very carefully, but the journey of electric two-wheelers has not been consistent," Handa told the Financial Express. “The cost of acquisition in comparison to ICE vehicles continues to be a concern. As and when the buyer is ready, Suzuki will be present in the market as it already has the technology.”
In other words, electric motorcycles are expensive, and the buyers aren’t ready for them—but Suzuki does have electric motorcycles it could sell, if people did want to buy them.
Wait, what? The past few years have been filled with warning signs to the OEMs, all saying it’s time to develop electric motorcycles. Urban centers are cracking down on vehicles with internal combustion engines, the Isle of Man TT and MotoGP both have electric racing events, and almost every OEM has some sort of electric scooter or motorcycle in the lineup. Even if Suzuki didn’t come out with a mass-market electric motorcycle, some sort of team-up like the Honda-Mugen skunk works deal would show it's serious about the future.
Instead, we get a half-hearted comment that the market isn’t ready for an electric motorcycle, because they’re too expensive. Maybe that’s mostly true, but if Suzuki thinks it can sell re-warmed SV650 designs into the late 2020s, it’s mistaken. Even though Suzuki’s small-capacity bikes are doing well in developing markets, we’re going to see a crackdown on internal combustion engines there, too. The overcautious belt-and-suspenders approach may have kept Suzuki’s motorcycle business alive since the 2008 financial recession, but if the company sees a future in powered two-wheelers, shouldn’t it start showing some signs of life?