Total Motorcycle’s interview with Honda Motorcycle Canada:
by Mike & Andrea Le Pard.
So many good things can be said about Honda’s proud history and long list of great accomplishments in the motorcycle industry. One could also say that Honda is the pioneer of mass-produced motorcycles and is responsible for bringing motorcycling to the masses.
Total Motorcycle was fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview Jagatveer Jandu on January 8th, 2005 at the 2005 Calgary Motorcycle Show.
Read on and you will see why. Jagatveer Jandu is Honda Motorcycle’s District Sales Manager for Western Canada. I can only imagine there are very few people in the world that know as much about present-day Honda as Jagatveer does. But his knowledge and passion for Honda are not all that makes him stand out; it is also his great personality and friendly, talkative nature. We sure learned a lot about Honda from him, and now you will too!
TMW: Jagatveer, what sets Honda apart from the rest of the competition?
Jagatveer: In a single word, safety. It might sound boring to make safety your primary concern, but Honda feels that it is better to design a “boring” bike that is ultimately safe and reliable then to create a bike that appeals to the crowds but isn’t as safe. Of course this doesn’t mean that Honda makes boring motorcycles; however, it does mean that Honda goes to great lengths to improve rider safety and motorcycle reliability. I will give you an example using the CBR1000RR. It may not be the fastest bike on the market, but there are very few people in the world that are capable of riding it to its fullest potential. In fact, we do the test rides for that model in Japan and none of Honda’s test riders were able to ride it to its limits. We actually had to hire professional racers to test out the bike. So while this model is not the fastest in the world, it still incorporates our safety features and that is more important to us.
Many people do not know that Honda is the only company that does extensive crash tests on all of their motorcycles. We are now capable of designing motorcycles to be much safer for the rider if they are in a crash. Most accidents cause the rider to be thrown forward off the motorcycle, so we have designed 2005 motorcycle models to feature breakaway components that create a safer crash for the rider. Mirrors on Honda sport bikes now pivot and break away if a part of the body catches them (specifically the ankles or feet). Also, our windshields are now narrower so they are not as constraining to the body in a crash. Just like the mirrors, the windshield can easily break away if needed.
In our ATV line up we have introduced crumple zones into our ATV models. This makes our ATV’s much more safe than those of the competition.
We find that consumers love Honda’s quality, reliability and higher resale value of our motorcycles.
TMW: What were Honda’s most successful models for 2004?
Jagatveer: Our 2004 Honda CBR600RR was our most popular model in the Sport category and overall. It took the 600 Supersport class to a whole new level for the rider as it was designed was inspired by our MotoGP champion, the RC211V. It also helped that the CBR600RR won the sport bike of the year award. The most successful cruiser model was the Honda VT750 Shadow Aero. The 750 Shadow Aero was new for 2004 and blended retro custom style with the convenience of shaft drive, an ultra low seat-height, and big bike look and feel. Our 50cc Jazz scooter was our best selling scooter.
TMW: Out of all of Honda’s 2005 models, which models are Honda most excited about and why?
Jagatveer: Honda is very excited about our more refined and re-tuned CBR600RR. Building off of the very successful 2004 model, the 2005 incorporates a host of next-generation upgrades that will elevate this full-on sport mount to all new heights. Motorcyclists will really notice the increased performance while the bike will be even more rider friendly than ever before. We expect that the 2005 Honda CBR600RR will be just as successful as last year’s model, and take first place in our sales again as well.
The 2005 season marks the 30th anniversary of the touring motorcycle that has become a legend the world over: the 2005 Honda Gold Wing. Naturally, we are very proud of the Gold Wing as nothing else in the market offers such astonishing performance and optimal luxury as it does. The Gold Wing has evolved into what Honda wants it to be, and that is the “Cadillac of touring bikes.” We designed it to handle like a sport bike, but to be as comfortable as a touring bike can be. The 30th anniversary Gold Wing encompasses all of our innovation and advancements.
Our line of Honda cruisers has always been popular with riders. New to the 2005 750cc cruiser line up is the Honda Shadow Spirit 750. Honda expects it to sell very well. It is targeted toward those who would want an entry-level cruiser, who enjoy retro styling and who find themselves riding solo most of the time. There is also a new addition to the Honda VTX lineup for 2005, the Honda VTX1800F. This sport custom boasts performance-cruiser style with its lower profile open rim tires and better handling than our other VTX cruisers. Honda now has over 24 different cruisers available to the consumer in various custom styles, engine sizes and configurations.
The new 2005 CBR1000RR Repsol Edition is the very first time Honda has offered a motorcycle for sale with factory race colors. These factory race colors are very much like those of Nicky Hayden’s Honda motorcycle.
2005 is a very special year for Honda Canada ATV riders. For the first time ever (for any motor vehicle), Honda Japan has built a product specifically for Canada. Already a favorite among many riders, the TRX500 Rubicon ATV is now available in a special Canadian Trail Edition (TRX500FG), which is perfectly suited to Canadian trail conditions. Honda spent 3 million dollars testing the TRX500FG in Canada (British Columbia) to find out what worked best in our wilderness. The TRX500FG is the final result of all our testing. Based on the conditions it was designed for, there is only one other place Honda would sell this ATV and that would be Australia.
TMW: What is Honda currently focusing on in the market and why?
Jagatveer: At Honda we have an umbrella concept called “Total Control” for all of our motor products (car and motorcycle). For motorcycles, this means a rider can more safely transfer his/her skills from one machine to another. This is possible due to our standardized throttle response available on any of our motorcycles. A rider who is used to riding any Honda model can now easily transfer his/her skills to another Honda motorcycle through the use of this type of linear control. Of course they may not be as proficient on the new Honda bike they try, but it will be safer for them to ride while they are learning and gaining that proficiency. Another part of the “Total Control” concept is mass centralization of our motorcycles. We place the heavier components, such as the engine and transmission, lower to the ground and in a compact arrangement. This gives the rider some advantages such as making the motorcycle easier to maneuver, corner and control by creating a better pendulum effect.
We are also constantly focusing on safety. We have been more actively developing new features for our 2005 lineup. All of our 2005 and future models will have more safety features than ever before.
TMW: Kawasaki is doing very well with their Ninja 250R and EX500R sportbikes. Will Honda be offering any similar sized sportbikes in the near future?
Jagatveer: In Europe, Honda sells a wonderful CB400 Super Four that is light, water cooled, offers dual disc breaks in the front and is great for beginners. Unfortunately, we don’t offer this bike in North America because we believe that customers would not buy enough of them here to make it worth it. Smaller bikes like this one would cost very similar to the larger ones in our lineup. Obviously, if the cost was the same for this bike as a 600cc or larger one, most people in North America would choose the bigger bike. In Europe, the smaller bikes sell very well because of the graduated licensing program.
TMW: What things might we expect to see in the future from Honda?
Jagatveer: Honda would like to equip all of its future motorcycles with ABS and linked brakes. We feel this would be very beneficial to the rider overall. Some riders have expressed concern over linked brakes because they believe they can manually work the front and rear brake better than the machine can with the linked brakes. We took these concerns to the racetrack and found that the racers rode faster and harder with linked brakes than without them because there was less for the rider to have to concentrate on.
TMW: Are there any future models in the works?
Jagatveer: First, a little background information. Honda redesigned the 599 in 2004 for Europe; this was also the same year it was introduced in North America. Honda planned to produce enough 2004 Honda 599 (Hornet 600) motorcycles to meet the needs of buyers in 2005. Even though the Honda 599 is available in 2005 it is still a 2004 model. This is because in 2006, the Honda 599 will be radically changed. The 2004/05 Honda 599 featured the older CBR600F3 engine; in 2006 it will be redesigned for higher performance and will feature the CBR600F4i engine!
TMW: A member of our Total Motorcycle forum would like to know why Honda makes the 919 in such bland colors?
Jagatveer: We have offered the Honda 919 in Smoke, Asphalt, Matte Black and Metallic Black for a reason. We feel that the naked bike is the ultimate expression of subtleness, strength and purpose. We wanted the color choices to match the attitude. Since the engine is the central focus of the bike, we felt the motorcycle did not need to be flashy to get attention. These colors also allow the naked bike to have the most customization options of any motorcycle. Personally, if I left Honda today and could choose only one Honda motorcycle to take with me, I would take a 919 over all others.
TMW: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Jagatveer: Honda has a new program this year to introduce kids to motorcycles called Junior Red Riders. This is a free, basic introductory course taught by certified Honda instructors and is intended for young riders aged 6-12. The course will be held in major centers, and will give the kids a chance to ride around on very small Honda bikes. The purpose is to get young kids excited about riding, and to introduce them to Honda. The kids become members when they sign up and every member will receive a free subscription to the Junior Red Riders magazine too. To learn more go to the official website: www.jrr.ca
Environmental concerns affect everyone in the world, and the motorcycling industry is no exception. In 2006, new emission standards will come into effect in North America. Some motorcycle manufactures still have not met this new standard on their 2005 models. Honda has not only worked hard to meet the new 2006 Tier 2 standards but has already surpassed them on all of our 2005 models. Honda needs very little change in order to meet the 2008 CARB California standards as well.
This concludes our 2005 Interview with Honda Motorcycles. We would like to thank Honda Canada and Jagatveer Jandu for allowing us to interview them and for their time. We look forward to our next interview with them.
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