With a record attendance of 220,000 visitors, Intermot officially opened the 2017 model season in Cologne, Germany. Although manufacturers saved some news for the upcoming EICMA show, a virtual walk around Intermot's six halls has much to reveal besides international premieres including the new Honda Fireblade SP, the next generation Suzuki GSX-R1000R and the street-oriented Ducati Supersport.
The biennial Intermot show makes every even-numbered year a little more interesting for motorcycle fans, kicking off the new model season ahead of the annual EICMA show in Milan, Italy.
European sales have been steadily picking up pace in a slow recovery process from the economic hardships of recent years, with a 3.3 percent increase during the first eight months of 2016. The German show provided first-hand evidence of motorcycle manufacturers' cautious optimism, with 1,133 companies from 40 countries displaying their products across Intermot's six enormous halls, and attracting visitors from 95 countries – the record attendance bettering the previous event by 17 percent.
If the first major international show of the 2017 model season is any indication of market trends, that would be the continuation of what we've seen during the last two or three years. Sensible rather than extravagant new motorcycles, focusing more on value-for-money instead of power-to-weight values.
Manufacturers invest with caution, making the most out of successful model platforms by generating more and more modular spin-offs. Motorcycle line-ups today seem more compact than 10 years ago, using fewer engines to power several different variants that still keep showrooms looking abundant.
Another clear trend is the re-adjustment of the mid-capacity motorcycle classes. Abandoning the race-replica hype of the past, Honda led the way in recent years with its super-efficient NC700/750 and CB500 model platforms, Yamaha followed with the MT-07 series, and now Kawasaki rolls out one ER-6 variant after another.
The middle class has evidently started to expand downwards, with the 300cc segment on a constant growth trend. With the exception of Suzuki, the Japanese factories are investing heavily in this category, KTM and BMW have already stepped in, and Triumph is also expected to join in soon, maybe even as soon as November at EICMA. Benelli also emerges as a very strong player, rejuvenated in China with a new 300cc line-up, while we are expecting Indian manufacturers to unleash their westward assault.
The constantly rising Asian markets lure the world's major motorcycle manufacturers like bears to a beehive, forming in the process a market segment where the East meets the West. Models like the BMW G310R and the KTM 390 Duke can serve as both affordable entry-level commuters in Europe and the US, and as attainable top-end bikes in Asia. There's no doubt we have a lot more to expect in this front.
Another booming segment efficiently combines Asian market standards with European legislation. The 125cc class is extremely popular in vast markets like those of India, Thailand and China, but it also caters the upper legal limit for new riders in Europe (aged 18 to 21 years). Intermot hosted a large number of 125cc offerings, including several from Chinese makers that seem to have grasped how to develop motorcycles with an appeal for developed markets.
Electric mobility occupied a hall of its own, yet very few actual new models made Intermot headlines. The major manufacturers continue to appear rather indifferent to electric models and the absence of existing models or prototypes did leave us with a negative impression. Harley-Davidson, for example, didn't bring the functioning LiveWire prototype that it displayed last year at EICMA, and Victory also failed to display the production Empulse TT. Even BMW didn't bother to show the eRR concept racer in its huge booth, despite the fact that this was its home show.
Kumpan Electric was the only European manufacturer to occupy a big booth in the electric section, right at the entrance of the dedicated Hall 5, hosting a world debut of its updated 1954L scooter – the model we rode at the Wave Trophy back in June – with fresh styling and richer features, like touch-screen instruments with smartphone app integration.
The Intermot e-motion section also hosted the debut of the Greyp G12H electric bicycle, and included a large indoor testing track that offered visitors the chance to try out some of the electric models on display.