Of Dead Brands and Electric Motorcycles Reincarnations

It’s somehow funny to see once more that history in in fact repeating and many of the things which take place in society are in fact cyclic actions, depending on how keen the eye of the beholder is and the scale of the facts being analyzed. However, we are not talking about a circle, but rather about a spiral. Right now the exact name of the guy who detailed this eludes me, and I hope you will pardon me if I credit the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel with this (and be wrong).
However, this editorial is not exactly about Hegel’s dialectic spiral, even though what’s happening lately in the motorcycle business may have something to do with that. I am not at all sure whether we could assimilate retro or vintage gas-powered motorcycles into the “thesis” concept and pit it against electric motorcycles which should be regarded as the “anti-thesis.”

Instead of relating to these two categories in terms of opposition, I’d rather go for term such as “evolution” or “transformation,” and that is because electric bikes are opposing internal combustion engine (ICE) ones only on a basis which has to deal with pollution and environmental impact. Truth is I could not notice that an increasing number of old motorcycle and scooter brands are turning electric these days.

Some of these have been dormant, while others have been outright dead and buried, though not too deeply, I might add. And with the help of some guys who are into the e-bike business, they hope to restore at least part of the glory of old… in an electrifying manner.

I’ve had numerous pieces on how Cezeta returned from the dead as an electric scooter, with the good old Simson Schwalbe seemingly in a straight line for revival with help from Govecs. Other European brands which have slowly faded into oblivion are also making a comeback as electric machines, with Sarolea and the rather recent Voxan being the most prominent so far.

Is this a real comeback or a zombie-like existence?

Surely, most of you would argue that the brands are not properly restored and their “coming back to life” looks more like being turned into zombies. And be right, at least in a way. Restoring a motorcycle brand completely is almost impossible unless one has a really huge amount of money to support the entire project… hoping that it would finally take flight and kickstart the return of investment. Still, this is not an endeavor which takes one or two years, especially when we are talking about a brand that died decades ago.

Surely, one might say that Simson manufactured two-wheelers until fairly recently so reviving the brand should not be such a monumental task. Well, the sad news is that even in this case we are talking about the exact amounts of time and money, simply because the final years of these historical brands are (or at least most of them) not unlike the convulsions of a beheaded chicken.

They stopped producing added value a long time ago and what may seem like the decline of a brand is in fact the final stage of its agony. These “cases” cannot be “stitched and patched,” because there’s almost nothing left to stitch patches to. They need a complete rebirth, on completely different grounds, with a different approach to industry and when doing this, no mistakes can be tolerated, because any wrong move might prove to be fatal.

If you need more fact to convince you that raising a brand from the dead to its state of yore is not possible without a VERY FAT bank account, think about Indian and Polaris. It goes without saying that a corporation such as Polaris has very deep pockets, and when setting out to restoring America’s oldest bike manufacturer, the expenses have been immense.

Still, with all the funding, Polaris and Indian needed two years or so to have a new engine ready, while working on the second one (for the Scout). Basically, the new Indian comprises two platforms, of which one accounts for 5 of the 6 models… and despite what the two companies might say, they certainly have generous profit margins to sustain the business.

Now, back to our old European brands, I guess it’s now easier to understand why a full-on restoration is not a feasible project when not linked to a really big source of funding. Indian has been a huge name in the past, but on the old continent there simply isn’t a brand that could rival it when it comes to being influential or cult. And this makes things harder.

Left alone, slowly becoming nothing more than a name associated with the melancholic memories of our grandfathers, names such as Simson, MZ and so many others are doomed to slowly fade away into complete oblivion. Whatever hope there might be lies in those who are willing to take on the hard task of succeeding in the electric business.

It goes without saying that this seems like the only way these companies won’t die completely. Most of the patents they may be holding are not exactly useful in the future because they are old technology. When a company can barely float, investments in high-tech are last on the list of priorities and it’s no wonder seeing their machines gradually losing ground.

On the other hand, electric mobility is still in its infancy, with a wonderful potential and lots of amazing cool things to be discovered in the future. It’s - in a way - a matter of choosing to let everything die and bury it, or trying to preserve one or two things and try to transform them into “seeds” from which new life may sprout.

I guess you’ll agree with me in saying that this might very well be the only chance they get to at least see their badge on new machinery rolling down the street. At times, the idea of just letting go must have crossed the minds of all the fellows involved in this, but frankly, I cannot thank enough to those who refused to let go.

Sure, Simson and the others might never enjoy the glory from half a century ago. Times have changed and industry changed, too, and what was cool and desirable back then is worthless today, save for some collectible pieces which will occasionally change hands every now and then.

The only thing these brands can still offer is the vibe of their name, the same mojo which can still be found in the few motorcycles left in running order. For them, the cycle is over, and it’s time to be reborn in a new body. How it will grow is anyone’s guess, because in a way they are exactly like new-born babies: you can tell a lot of things about their parents and their parents’ past, but you’ll just have to wait and see them grow to learn about the individuals they will become.

I am really looking forward to see them grow, how about you?
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