A few days ago, Lotus sent out a press release announcing it would begin producing a super-premium motorcycle. In the world of bad ideas that has produced motorcycle-themed crossover products like the “Moet & Chandon Edition Indian Motorcycle” and an “Orange County Choppers” line of barbecue accessories, this one’s right up there. Here’s why:
Lotus is a car manufacturer
Lotus has absolutely no experience building motorcycles. There is nothing in its history that suggests that starting to build one now makes any sense whatsoever.
Just because a car and a motorcycle share wheels doesn’t mean that one’s learning automatically transfers from one thing to another. If Lotus was going to do anything, why wouldn’t it at least complete engine production before it ventured out into a business which it doesn’t know anything about?
Just a few car manufacturers have hung onto their motorcycle heritage, and it’s because the R&D and engineering that goes into building a world-class motorcycle is just as costly and time consuming as the same that goes into a car. BMW has managed to make a go of it, and sells more gear and accessories than it does motorcycles.
There was no end to the hue and cry when Porsche decided to build an SUV. Yet the Cayenne proved itself to be the product that saved Porsche, eventually becoming its most popular model.
The difference between bikes and SUVs? There’s profit in sport-utilities.
There’s little real interest in exotic sport bikes
MV Agusta had decades of motorcycle building under its belt. Between the years of 1958 and 1972, it had 37 MotoGP World Constructors championships on the wall, and 34 Isle of Man TT victories as a bonus.
Yet, when it returned with the F4 750 in 1997 – a motorcycle so beautiful that it was instantly included in the wildly successful “Art of the Motorcycle” exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum, which upwards of a million people saw – sales were tepid at best. The company has since been passed around from Cagiva to Proton to Husqvarna and finally to Harley-Davidson, which bought it at a fire sale price.
Dozens of examples of pipe dreams about selling exotic motorcycles exist, from Vincent to Confederate. Most have disappeared, with a few racing just ahead of creditors.
Aside from the name, what’s new?
Lotus’s press release suggests that the C-01 it intends to build will be “a hyper bike with integrated racing technology. It will be manufactured of materials like carbon, titanium and aerospace quality steel, which are also used in Formula 1.”
So, just like every other exotic sport bike from Ducati, KTM, BMW and Honda, then?
It looks like the team building this bike certainly has racing experience: Kodewa, the Germany auto racing team, is responsible for Lotus’s T128 LMP racer, and designer Daniel Simon worked for Bugatti.
The press release also saw fit to cite Simon’s work on the Lightcycle from Disney’s 2010 film Tron: Legacy in his bona fides. Terrific. I’m sure there were some cool designers involved in the Viper-powered Dodge Tomahawk, but that never saw the light of day, either.
In his statement in the Lotus press release, Simon noted that the C-01 would be “emotional, heartbreaking, at times playfully retro,” which a friend pointed out that it sounded more like a Match.com profile than a creative brief.
Stick to cars, Lotus. You’ll thank me later.