Word on the street is the KTM’s superbike isn’t selling. Not just here in the US, but worldwide. Need proof? The upgraded 2011 KTM RC8 R is a full $3,500 cheaper than last year’s model at a time when the Euro remains strong against the dollar. This new R serves double duty as a non-R replacement, it’s cheaper than that model too. Could the 180bhp v-twin now be a loss-leader for the company?
For 2011, the RC8 R has been upgraded with a new crankshaft, refined fuel injection and new dual-plug ignition increases power from 168 to 175bhp and torque is up 1.5lb/ft to 93.6. That crank, the injection refinements and a new, heavier flywheel should address the main complaint people have of the RC8: an aggressive surge of power as it comes on-cam. Looks are revised with new LED running lights and purty new colors and the suspension has been overhauled to deliver an even wider range of adjustment. Considering the old model was one of the most adjustable bikes on the market, that’s saying something.
The fancier new parts, their development and the strength of the Euro point to a higher price point, not a lower one. This facelift comes only three years after the RC8 was first shown and two years after the RC8 R, so that development and tooling’s a long way from being paid off too. KTM calls its $16,499 figure “aggressive pricing” which is indicative of its aim to drive traffic to showrooms. All the above added together suggests that KTM could now be selling each RC8 R at a loss simply to get its halo bike in the public’s hands.
So why isn’t the RC8 R selling? It has nothing to do with the quality of the product. We’ve spent significant track time on last year’s bike and it remains our pick of the superbike crop. It combines the ease-of-use of a Japanese superbike with the exotic character of a fire breathing European V-twin. To our eyes it still looks five years newer than any other bike on the market. It even plays a trump card no other superbike currently does — it’s all day comfortable for tall people like me. Thanks to all that chassis adjustability, it actually fits my 6’ 2” frame. All that together should deliver some reasonable sales, even during this recession. The problem seems to be with KTM’s non-existent PR, marketing and dealer network. No one’s going to buy your product if they don’t know it exists. No one’s going to choose your product over competitors if they don’t understand its advantages. Sadly, the cheaper price doesn’t address those problems.