Brands exist because they mean something. Every brand signifies certain traits, certain aspirations and certain characteristics. This is more so when it comes to motorcycles.
Think Honda. What comes to mind? Well, refinement, friendliness and reliability are some things that come up. Think Yamaha and I'm certain that performance and aggressiveness will top your mental thought list. On closing your eyes and chanting the word 'Suzuki' repeatedly, apart from distancing people away from you, good build quality and good power are what come to mind.
It has taken years of clever marketing and ingenious engineering for these brands to achieve this sort of level where people automatically identify and expect certain attributes from the motorcycle bearing the marque, without even swinging their legs over the machine.
Now, however, they seem to be undoing all that they strived so hard for. Take the Indian bike market, for example. Yamaha, with its awesome resurgence with the R15 and the FZ series, comes up with the SZ range. The SZ might look very 'Yamaha' indeed, but one ride later, all of that simply falls flat. It's a Yamaha engineered to feel like a Honda - refined, tame and very, very sedate.
Then there's Honda's CBR150R, which despite its prefix, is anything but like its namesake. It's obvious that Honda intends to take on the king of the hill in the 150cc sports segment, the Yamaha R15, by adding a tinge of aggressiveness in the motorcycle's styling and design ques. Bright and eye catching stickering adorns the chiseled fairing of the CBR, lending it an air of intimidation and mind numbing acceleration. Thumb the starter, select first, rev the throttle and let out the clutch and TA DA, you're disappointed. It's not even half as thrilling as the Yamaha and it's so comfortable that your granny, with her gangrene ridden foot, could ride one.
Don't think this is only happening with motorcycles, far from it. The new BMWs want to be Mercs, the Mercs want to be BMWs, the Audis grab from both tables while the Jaguars are slowly eating away sales from the Germans as they go on with their fancy dress competitions.
What does this mean to us? Well, for one, we cannot expect anything from a brand, like we used to. Secondly, brand fan clubs might dissolve simply because the competition could very well give members what they actually want from their machines, while their erstwhile favourite apes another marque. Finally, machines that bring out the original ethos of their makers will surge in value in the future, so hang on to your RX 100s, RD 350s, R15s, CD100s, Unicorns, Shoguns and Fieros with your dear lives for they could all make you very rich one day! The day when every motorcycle and car feels the same. And honestly, in my opinion, I don't think it's very far away as the shift has already begun.