The Motorcycle Industry Council, known for such hits as the near-useless Gear Up Every Ride, the pretty much actually-useless, and being real bad at math is—according to a press release sent out today—finally doing their job of preserving, protecting, and promoting motorcycling in the US, emphasis on promoting.

Just kidding! I think we all know this is gonna be another dead-end boondoggle, just busywork optics to make sure the suits can keep sucking up salaries for their lackadaisical efforts at preserving, protecting and promoting.

The facts are these:

1. Press release, dated today, July 31st, 2019: “MIC Launches Long-Term Initiative to Attract New Riders.”

“It’s clear the industry needs to reach and inspire new customers. While many of us, with our individual businesses, have taken steps to grow ridership, we also should be working together, and the MIC wants to help make that happen,” said Paul Vitrano, MIC board chair and senior assistant general counsel at Indian Motorcycle and Polaris Inc. “To help us fully understand the barriers to entry, and to create an inclusive strategic plan to conquer those barriers that will be available to all stakeholders, we have partnered with a team of researchers and strategists to bring fresh perspectives to this challenge and opportunity.”

The MIC wants to “make that happen.” That’s a given, although we’ve seen enough inaction, non-results and bullshit press releases to know that’s just jibber-jabber. But: “To help us fully understand the barriers to entry… we have partnered with a team of researchers and strategists to bring fresh perspectives to this challenge and opportunity.”

Wait a tick. You’re the motherfuckin’ Motorcycle Industry Council and you need to partner with a team of researchers and strategists to figure this out? This is what y’all do. Core competency and all that.

2. The MIC has hired consulting firm Centauric LLC to help the organization get its collective cabeza out of its culo: “Centauric has committed an impressive multi-disciplinary team of behavioral scientists, engineers, and business consultants, and takes a unique approach to problem-solving. We are excited to be working with them on this critical initiative,” Vitrano said.

I’m a consultant myself, so I don’t find fault with that approach, exactly, except for the part where the Motorcycle Industry Council needs outside help to understand the motorcycle industry. But horses for courses, as they say, and there’s zero evidence that Centauric has any background in the motorcycle industry, and moreover, looks an awful lot like the epitome of what consulting firms are often accused of being: high-priced hand-wavers who show up, “analyze things,” spit some jargon and wave their hands, and then collect a fat check and hit the road without a care to whether their recommendations made a bit of difference, the typical PWC/Deloitte circle jerk.

Further, the Centauric services page is like buzzword checklist of thing that sound good and mean nothing, like “innovation” and “strategy execution,” and let’s not forget the always-effective “alignment for action.” And it’s mostly internal organizational stuff, so-called change management and other nonsense words, not market conditions/dying industry stuff.

This was the best the MIC’s “months-long competitive search” could come up with, huh? I’d surmise someone at Centauric must know someone at the MIC, but that’d be so out of character with how the MIC and the industry at large works.


3. “The plan will be presented at the MIC’s American International Motorcycle Expo Presented by Nationwide in September in Columbus, Ohio.”

So these apparently non-motorcycle people are gonna figure out the solution to this problem, which the MIC seems to have given up on—despite the organization’s “long history of working hard to expand the market”—in less than two months? Oh sure, “fresh eyes” and all that, but now I almost want to attend AIM just to see this “solution” presented. Anyone wanna put odds on the likelihood that it’ll be as substantial as the promised-but-nonexistent follow-up to last year’s big news from the MIC on the supposed-but-essentially-unsupported-with-real-data increase in women riders?

Oh, but check out this stock photo of people riding motorcycles that was included with the press release. You just gotta believe, y’all!


6 Responses

  1. Patrick Shaughnessy

    Surj, at this risk of sounding like I drank the CityBike Kool-Aid (which I have, but that’s another story!), I totally agree with you, on all counts. When I worked at Sears Credit in the mid-90’s (back when Sears Credit had the 3rd largest credit card portfolio, $25 billion in receivables, 30 million active cardholders, and when a billion really meant something to boot!), the VP of Cards, a former McKinsey Consultant, hired, guess who? McKinsey, that’s who!, to come in and analyze the portfolio to “strategically align with the Store-side of the business”. Consultants who had never worked in credit cards before but boy o’ boy they sure were good at Harvard Graphics, interviewing others and then claiming credit, and using words that didn’t make sense to anyone with any COMMON sense. I could go on, but why bother? How embarrassing for the MIC. Did anyone not think how poorly this would be viewed? Disappointing doesn’t even begin to summarize my feelings.

  2. Ian G. Heller

    Hi Surj,

    This is my first visit to your site, but I don’t understand all the hate about the MIC. It seems like a “long term initiative to attract new riders” is right in their wheelhouse. After many years in marketing, I believe that doing primary research is a critical step in making an initiative successful. In my experience, skipping the research because you assume you don’t need “outside help” is often a big mistake.

    I don’t know anything about Centauric but having the Senior General Counsel for Polaris/Indian and the VP of Motorcycles for Honda endorse a research project would suggest this initiative was pretty well vetted. Also, a good market research company follows statistically-sound methods and gets its subject matter expertise from its client. I doubt you’re going to find a stellar market research company with “any background in the motorcycle industry.”

    My guess is that MIC is already well along the way of designing the research project with Centauric. If that’s the case, two months is plenty of time to complete the work and prepare it for publication.

    I went back through your columns — they’re interesting and entertaining but I didn’t see any recommendations from you on how to grow the motorcycle industry. I may well have missed them. But I’d be interested in hearing your views. Thoughtful criticism can be helpful, but it has a lot more credibility if it’s accompanied by ideas of your own.

    In any case, we have some pretty good motorcycling roads here in CO, too. My wife and I will be riding for the next four days (she’s in the 19%), so if you reply, I probably won’t see it until next week.


  3. pch1013

    The problem with the U.S. motorcycle market can be summed up in four words:

    Boomers are getting old.

    No solution to this problem exists.

    That’ll be $1 million please.

  4. Victor

    I think there are a few obvious problems:
    – Millenials are generally risk-averse
    – Younger people use social media, and there are no real idols/icons/celebs/influencers who glorify motorcycles or promote it as a fun activity

    If Kim K was posting pics of her riding a Ducati on the snake, guarantee you the Ducati dealers will sell out of inventory in less than a week.

  5. my opinion

    “on the supposed-but-essentially-unsupported-with-real-data increase in women riders”

    All the stats that women now make up 19% of motorcycle riders is misleading. They make up 19% of owners, but I dare say only 1 in 20 riders are female. Number of owners does not equal number of riders. There are a lot of women with motorcycles sitting in their garages that never see the light of day.


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