In all honesty, I don’t have an issue with the fact that the FZ-X exists. Sure, it could have looked a whole lot better and whether it ends up being a success is for the market to decide, not me.
What bothers me is that this motorcycle highlights the sad decline of the FZ platform, while simultaneously presenting an unflattering reflection of what Yamaha India stands for today.
I have a personal soft spot for the FZ. It’s the bike I learned how to attack a mountain road on, way back in 2009, thanks to my very generous and trusting cousin Ishaan who helped me convert the masses of theoretical data I’d collected into practical knowledge on his then pride and joy.
All those years back, the common consensus was that the FZ16 was a sensation and that all it needed was just a little more power. Flash forward to 2021 and a bike that used to make 14 horsepower now produces a shade over 12 in its latest avatar.
The reason this cuts so deep is because it comes from Yamaha. Ask any motorcyclist from before the KTM days about which manufacturer stood for performance, and the answer was an almost unanimous ‘Yamaha!’. Hallowed names like the RD, RX and the R15 are what the company is revered for, but it persists with the roller coaster ride of sporadically launching a game-changing icon only to be followed by several machines of mediocrity.
We recently reported that Yamaha was going to focus on its 150-250cc motorcycles and scooters in India. This is fine, but we also reported the disappointing news that the company had no plans to reintroduce any of its big bikes in India this year, including the CKD R3.
In fact, the company has even ruled out the XSR 155, which is the very motorcycle that enthusiasts have been clamouring for. It is the very bike that inspired the cobbling together of the FZ-X.
Indeed, sales numbers are vital to any business, but Porsche hasn’t stopped selling the 911 just because its SUVs sell in much higher numbers. If anything, the SUVs are just a facilitator to keep making sportscars.
It’s this key area where Yamaha India deviates from what the brand stands for in international markets. The expensive R15 has proved to be a big success, so why can’t the XSR co-exist with the FZ-X?
Why can’t some of the big bikes be sold here even if they sell in limited quantities? Won’t there be tremendous brand-building value in bringing a few of the sensational, yet relatively affordable machines like the Tenere 700, MT-09 and the new R7 to India, if not the range-topping R1 and MT-10? I know for a fact that the lust over the R1, so spectacularly captured on a poster in my childhood cupboard, led to the R15 being my first bike.
Ultimately, a motorcycle company is simply an extension of the people within it. Today, I humbly request those folks to look just a little beyond what the raw numbers recommend; to also consider what your brand stands for – and what it means to the many, many fans of your brand. We can have the best of both worlds here.