By: Motorcycle USA Staff
Apart from providing an excuse to eat too much, see lots of friends and relatives and watch as much football as possible, the end of December also prompts many to look back at the passing year and all it had to offer. We here at Motorcycle USA are no different, and as has become the tradition around these parts our editorial staff sat down to hash out our Best of 2012 selections. This year we added best ATV and UTV models to our regular categories, including the ever-popular Rider of the Year, Industry Leader and Manufacturer of the Year. Sure the conversation got heated, some feelings were hurt and there’s a nice new fist-sized hole in Hutchy’s office wall, but we finally came to a consensus. When the dust settled, one thing we all agreed upon was that 2012 included some exciting standouts in nearly all categories. So sit back, relax and enjoy Motorcycle USA’s Best of 2012, starting below with our pick for Industry Leader.
Honda gets our nod as Industry Leader in 2012 for a number of reasons. But the biggest reason goes back to March of 2011. Big Red was one of the motorcycle company’s hardest hit by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan. It was forced to stall operations for a number of weeks and then had to go about the process of rebuilding, no small task.
Financially, Honda’s motorcycle and power product segments did better globally in 2012 than recent years, with motorcycles reaching a five-year high in unit sales and coming near the net sales high set in 2008. Lagging sales in North America and Europe were bolstered by big gains in Asia (excluding Japan which is categorized separately in Honda financials) and elsewhere in the world.
Toward the end of 2012, Honda made some big announcements that sealed the deal for us. Early in November Honda made known its plans to expand operations in its Timmonsville, South Carolina plant, increasing production of side-by-sides and UTV, thus bringing additional jobs to America. It then revealed the host of 500cc bikes to hit markets in 2013, taking the lead of the major OEMs to meet the demands of those calling for more economically priced, entry-level bikes. The future of all things motorcycle depends on those who love to ride, and by marketing to new and beginning riders of all styles, Honda stands at the forefront developing rides to revitalize the industry.
Honda also continues to engineer machines that consistently perform well in MotoUSA's annual comparison tests. An updated CBR1000RR placed second in our Street Comparison of top literbikes and first-place in our Track Comparison. The CRF450R and CRF250R mainstays also held strong in their respective comparison reviews. We were also intrigued by the all-new NC700X, a versatile all-rounder that, like the aforementioned 500 lineup, delivers an affordable mount for the masses.
Honda is also taking a renewed interest in expanding its racing program. Mid-2012 Honda released a concept drawing of a CRF450 rally bike, which hit the ground running in the Rally of Morocco where it put in an impressive performance. The Rally bike will contest Dakar 2013 in January, putting Big Red back in the major rally race for the first time in over two decades.
The brand showed is dedication to engineering the highest quality powersports products possible after its recovery from the 2011 tsunami, while also concentrating on the future with its developments in 2012. Honda’s ambition and quality, as well as its move to draw new riders to the world of motorcycling makes it Motorcycle USA’s pick for Industry Leader of 2012.
Originally published in the December 2012 issue of Motorcycle USA.