Although Harley-Davidson and Indian weren’t there, and BMW was a surprising no-show, the rest of planet Earth’s powersports factories, distributors, accessory houses, clothing houses and helmet manufacturers made tracks to Milan, Italy, for EICMA — one of the two biggest motorcycle industry trade shows in the world. It’s possible the Tokyo show is bigger, but not by much. EICMA claims to be the most visited event in the world, and it may be right. This year, over 560,000 people attended the show, a significant increase from 2022. The powerports industry did well in 2023.
EICMA takes place at the Fiera Milano trade center, a huge modernistic set of buildings on the outskirts of Milan. Eight separate halls, each the size of a football field, are filled to the rafters with anything and everything to do with motorcycling and powersports, in addition to the auditorium for presentations. The first two days are industry-only. The opening day, Tuesday, is a madhouse of journalists running from one new model unveiling to the next. Wednesday is devoted to business deals, parts buyers and retailers. Thursday through Sunday are for the general public, with motocross, trials competition, stunt shows, test rides and music.
The more than 700 exhibitors on site represented over 2,000 brands from 45 countries. A whole row in one hall was devoted to Chinese manufacturers of components. Portuguese and Spanish motorcycle companies, which make interesting bikes that never make it to North American shores, displayed their offerings too. There were also companies from Australia, Pakistan, Thailand and Taiwan.
The Italian manufacturers were in their element. The Ducati exhibit was especially packed, as the company pulled the covers off six new motorcycle models: the limited edition Panigale V4 SP2, the new DesertX, the Hypermotard, a 30th anniversary model of the Monster, a new version of the Multistrada and the new Supersport. Beta displayed its 2024 lineup, coming this spring to an off-road competition near you. President and CEO of Piaggio Group Americas Marco d’Acunz explained how the group’s four brands, Piaggio (entry-level scooters) Vespa (higher-end scooters) Moto Guzzi (touring and adventure bikes) and Aprilia (sport) fit into a seamless package for the consumer.
Both Vespa and Piaggio are all about urban mobility, but Vespa has more luxury touches and style. For motorcycle buyers who want a more traditional look and less tech, there’s the Moto Guzzi line, which makes the Stelvio, a lower tech adventure bike for those who prefer lower tech or can’t afford high tech. It still has cornering ABS and five riding modes. There are three versions of the 853cc V85: a commuter and two dual sport bikes. The V7 naked bike is newly available in the Stone Corsa version. For sport or tech-oriented buyers, there’s the Aprilia line. Starting from the 457cc RS and working up to the Tuono V-4, there’s a bike for every sport bike enthusiast, plus the Tourag 660 adventure machine.
Honda took over the EICMA auditorium for its new model show. The company has been releasing new models since this past summer, and 10 more took the stage at EICMA. One blast from the past is a semi-automatic, the CB650R E-clutch. With the E-clutch, the rider has the option of clutching normally or shifting without using the clutch lever. A similar setup was tried about 30 years ago and never sold well in the U.S. Now that a generation has grown up on automatic car transmissions, Honda believes consumers will accept the idea.
During the show, word traveled that the 2024 Transalp has passed CARB and will once again be available in the U.S. The Transalp is the more pavement-oriented of Honda’s adventure offerings, with the Africa Twin for those who intend to spend more time off road.
Yamaha, Honda’s major rival, spread out into a large part of one exhibition hall and bought additional space in another hall for its scooters. For 2024, a new range of six naked sport bikes and upgrades in other models will be available. Also on display was a line of clothing for children that screams Christmas present.
Suzuki was celebrating an increase in sales in Europe, Oceania and North America. “We are committed to the market,” said Chase Rastegar, Suzuki Motor USA communications manager. The company is looking into hydrogen-powered two wheelers and plans to launch both hydrogen and electric-powered commuters. For 2024, Suzuki has put new motors in both the VStrom 800 and the GSX, and it is introducing two new models: the 1000GX and the 800R. Both have a well-balanced package, with aerodynamic windscreens, advanced electronic suspension and three riding modes. The 800R will appear in the U.S. in January to February 2024 and the GX in March or April.
Royal Enfield has rapidly become a major player in the market. Its new dual-sport machine and first water-cooled model, the 450cc Himalayan, made a very big splash at EICMA, with outdoor riding demonstrations and test rides. Selling points were that the Himalayan was agile and balanced but, above all, “not intimidating” for those new to either motorcycles or off-road riding. Royal Enfield kept the seat as low as possible. Next to the new internal combustion machine was a mockup of the next iteration of the Himalayan, powered by electricity. We may see this machine in production in the next year or so.
Alternative fuels were a major talking point at EICMA. One company that has entered this field is Segway, which started out making self-balancing personal transporters but has since branched out into other modes of transportation. A recent initiative has been side-by-sides for both commercial and sport use. Europe is not a good market for ATVs and side-by-sides, and Segway was one of the few companies displaying these machines. One commercial and one sport side-by-side are now homologated for the U.S., but the big news at the show was the brand’s first hybrid side-by-side: the 330-horsepower Super Villain.
The lithium battery can be charged in three hours, or it can be charged by the double overhead cam gas engine. There are six speeds and three driving modes. “The Super Villain offers low-speed agility and high-speed stability,” said Jonas Shao, regional sales manager for Segway. He also explained that the Super Villain had just been introduced, and work on getting U.S. approval for sales is only now starting with the goal of being available in Q4 of 2024. Segway presently has 60 North American dealers and would like to have more. The application is on the website.
While Europe may not be the best place to sell off-road three- and four-wheelers, it is a great place to sell electric motorcycles. Zero has been making electric motorcycles in Central California for 17 years but supplies its European dealers first, because sales are better in Europe.
“Not to worry — we just sent notice to our North American dealers to expect their 2024 bikes in January or February,” said Mike Cunningham, vice president of sales, Americas. “There are two billion motorcycle riders in the world. Getting them on electric motorcycles would go a long way to reducing carbon in the atmosphere. Zero is leading the charge.”
Kymco has come up with what may be a game changer in the electric world. At present, when you buy an electric motorcycle or powersports vehicle, a large percentage of the cost is the cost of the batteries. Kymco proposes that motorcycle sales work like cell phone sales: a rider buys an electric motorcycle but not the battery. The customer then signs up for a battery plan that charges the customer for monthly usage. Batteries will be standardized and can be picked up at kiosks located in gas stations and other convenient locations. The battery plan entitles a customer to swap batteries any time he or she needs a charge, or alternatively, the battery can be charged at home. The company has a pilot project in Thailand, where the battery plan has been embraced by delivery services.
EICMA has much to offer the American dealer. Most of the presentations are in English, and you get to see the latest models long before they make it over to this side of the Atlantic. You may find accessories and clothing that your customers will want and will not be able to find elsewhere. On the other hand, the show is geared towards the European market, so there are few ATVs and UTVs, a lot of motorcycles that are unavailable in the U.S., and accessories aimed at the European consumer.
AIMExpo may be smaller, but it is U.S.-focused and includes education seminars to help dealers make the most of their business. Probably the best way to do EICMA is to take the family and have them see the sights (Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper is in Milan, along with many other great works of art) and enjoy Italian food, scenery and culture while you plunge into the EICMA experience.