Motorcycles Vs. Flivvers

From the October 1920 issue of Motorcyclist magazine

(Editor’s Note-Ford is a major factor of competition of the motorcycle industry because he makes the lowest priced automobile in the world and everyone wants an automobile, although not everyone wants a Ford. Because Ford slashed his prices, he has thrown a cloud of gloom over the motorcycle trade; but he is not going to wreck the industry, even though he were to give his cars away. Not every motorcycle prospect is going to buy a Ford, because this car now happens to be lower Priced than the powered two-wheeler. Some motorcycle prospects will buy Fords rather than motorcycles at present prices; some Ford prospects will buy Fords who might be swung over to motorcycles if prices on the latter were lower than they are. The greatest stag-nation in motorcycle sales this season, if it does occur, as the majority of dealers seem to feel at this time, will come solely because of the viewpoint of the motorcycle prospect. He may not be able to dispute the fact that motorcycles cannot be built for any less, under present industrial conditions, but he probably will assert that he doesn’t want one badly enough to pay the price asked. In other words the great rank and file may assume the attitude that, in their opinion, the price should be made to fit the popular purse of the purchasing class of this type of vehicle. If the demand is sufficient to take the output of the factories, the prices will stay up, otherwise not. Old supply and demand will render the final decision.

We print the following analysis of the situation from one section of this territory in order that the dealer point of view may be accorded the same degree of freedom of expression as has been accorded the manufacturer. Both are entitled to a fair hearing.)

At almost the same instant that the motorcycle factories announced an increase in the prices of the 1921 models came the shock to the automobile world, that Henry Ford had cut the prices on “flivvers” almost to the pre-war level, and this same shock to the automobile world, rebounded and sideswiped the motorcycle trade with a short arm jolt that all but paralyzed the works.

“Bosh,” “Bunk,” “I don’t believe it,” etc., I can hear the factories and confirmed motorcycle fans saying. “What connection can the cut in flivvers have to motorcycle prices?”

So, for all who don’t believe my statement, that the cut in the price of Fords knocked the bottom out of the motorcycle trade, let them spend a little time thinking and investigating, and I’ll wager that they will find these conditions, just as I have found them.

First, human life travels in cycles, both in the cycle field and in others, but since this is in connection with the cycle field, I will stick to that side of the argument. From the baby carriage to the tricycle, then to the bicycle, then the motorcycle, and then the automobile, is the rotation of wheels as followed by the majority of males in this country in their journey through life.

The great majority of motorcycles sold in this country are sold to boys and young men who cannot afford to own and operate an automobile, but who, nevertheless, are only awaiting the time when they can own the auto. More disapproval from the confirmed motorcycle rider, who would rather have a motorcycle than any automobile, but this class of rider is very much in the minority as is well known.

Look to the factories, and one can see the truth in my statement. The younger heads ride motorcycles, but after they rate a desk, and perhaps the hair over the temples is turning gray, then an automobile furnishes the means of transportation, not only to and from work, but on pleasure jaunts. They are merely passing through the cycle of wheels and nearing the last stage setting.

With the fact in mind that the majority of men would rather own an automobile than a motorcycle, does not the reduction in the price of Fords and the increase in the price of motorcycles start the graymatter working on the problem of the probable outcome? A Ford, under the new price, costs but little more than a motorcycle, and in some parts of the country can be purchased at almost equal if not a lesser amount.

Here, then, is the result of a little investigation. Prospects have ceased coming around looking at the new models, prospects that were lined up in good shape for a new model have lost their interest, and, in some cases, deposits have been refunded.

Are all these prospects going to buy Fords? Not right away, but the cut in the price has served as the handwriting on the wall, and the prospect has decided to wait. Unless the motorcycle factories do cut the prices to somewhere near the pre-war level, and make that cut in the near future, those prospective buyers of motorcycles will have purchased Fords and be lost to the motorcycle.