We’ve been hearing the cry for a while now, “The Koreans are coming! The Koreans are coming!” This spring, National Motorsports is leading the charge in Canada, bringing the Hyosung mark to our shores. Why all the excitement over the Comet 650, the Comet 250 and the GT650S?
Industry types are looking to the Korean Hyosung brand to re-introduce the concept of “affordability” to the motorcycle market; a trend that likely will bring more riders to the sport, benefiting not only the consumer but in the long-term all manufacturers.
The logic of that benefit is simple; relatively inexpensive bikes bring new riders to the sport and eventually those new riders look to move on to bigger, higher-priced bikes. Is anyone thinking Honda 40 years ago?
We had a chance to chat with Kent Aubichon, Vice President of National Motorsports, at the Vancouver Motorcycle show. We took a look at the harbingers of the “revolution”, at a booth, ironically, located across the aisle from Suzuki.
Aubichon is amazingly candid about the Suzuki-Hyosung link. Hyosung worked with Suzuki to product the SV650 engine, and there is more than a passing resemblance between the Comet 650 series bikes and Suzuki’s V-twin hit. As Aubichon puts it, “I really don’t know where one [manufacture] ends and the other begins.”
Motorcycles are a new venture for National Motorsports, but the company expects good things after bringing Hyosung scooters to Canada for the past four years. “It was just wild, there’s been less than one percent warrantee claims. I can live with this forever. So when we found out that they had motorcycles, we were; Pick us! Pick Us! But at the time we were sort of behind Chrono. Hyosung went to visit them then came to visit us, and now they are here. And we’re very happy with that.”
According to Aubichon it’s been an incredible relationship with Hyosung from the get go, whatever National Motorsports asks for is generally done in the next batch of bikes. “If there’s a refinement we need it’s done like that in the next batch.” He points out that the half-faired Comet 650 S comes with adjustable foot pegs, which he wants to see ported to the Comet GT 650 naked bike. “It’ll be done like that.”
Hyosung also seems to be working closely with National Motorsports on the process of getting Transport Canada approval for the bikes. The first wave of bikes will be the 250’s as they are DOT approved, and the Naked 650 is almost through the process. The big difference between the DOT and Transport Canada approval process is that in Canada compliance has to be proven.
That means a rigorous testing process. Take braking for example, says Aubichon, “they are really, really, sticklers about the brake tests. It wasn’t before and now Wane Duff is there and Wayne wants to see the tests. For DOT you just say it’s compliant and you bring the bike in. In Canada you must prove that it’s compliant.” It’s no small feat, as Kent puts it, ” There are about 413 different tests you have to go through; hot, cold, wet, dry, full speed, under speed…” The list goes on. Of course there are other issues with bringing a bike to the Canadian market, warning labels need to be both in French and English, as does the VIN label. It also means deep pockets, up to $50,000 to have a single model cleared.
All this begs the big question; when can Canadians expect the rollout of Hyosung’s first bikes in Canada? Aubichon is optimistic, “As soon as we get MOT clearance. I’m hoping for late spring. If they have all these tests done it’s a mater of compiling them on CD, sending them to Wane Duff at MOT, he stamps it and then 35-45 days later we’re in Canada.”
That means that riders in Canada should be able to make their first purchase this spring starting with the 250 and 650 Comet GT. The Comet 650 S, a half-faired version of the bike will follow later as there may be some refinements required to ensure the headlights comply with Canadian requirements. Also coming is the Comet 650 R, a full-faired version of the twin. The R will likely be re-badged to an S/T designation, in order to allow riders to insure the bike as a sport-tourer in insurance-persecuted provinces like Ontario. Kent makes the point that, “In Ontario it’s $3,000 to insure a 650 sportbike and $300 to insure the same displacement sport touring bike.” While the difference may not be that astronomical in reality, the stragegy still makes good sense.
Looking at the specifications for the Comet GT 650 R the sport-touring designation might fit. The bike features foot rests with 3 adjustable positions and a relatively relaxed set of ergos. Though those with sporting pretensions should note that this bike shares an engine in common with Dan Fischer’s MRX 650, which that company has dubbed the “first American sportbike”.
The biggest difference between the Hyosung line-up and all others, when you really boil it down, is expected to be price. The price point for the Comet GT 250 is, “Under $5,000.00. People are saying, ‘Yah, but the Honda and the Suzuki…’, but they don’t have the V-twin and they don’t have an oil-cooled engine, and don’t have 28 [27.49 HP (20.1 kW )) @ 10250 RPM claimed] horsepower in the same class – they have 18-19 horses.” In Canada the 250 class is wholly under-represented, which sees Hyosung’s closest competition likely coming from an odd assortment of bikes. The Suzuki GS500 is $6099.00 and around 40hp, the Kawasaki ZZ-R 250 is $6,299, 33 hp and the cost of your first set of scratched fairings. Put it all together and you start to see the need for the 250 class of beginner’s bikes in Canada, a need which Hyosung is well positioned to answer, especially when you take their Aquila GV250 Cruiser into account.
The Naked GT 650 will likely weigh in at around $7799.00, in comparison to Suzuki’s naked SV650 at $8499.00. Keep in mind though that the Naked GT650 is not a carbon copy of the SV (watch OWD for our upcoming review of this bike), for one it lacks the Suzuki’s fuel injection, which could make the price difference not quite as attractive to new and established riders. We’ll hold on further speculation until we’ve had a chance to test the Hyosung offering later this year.
Hyosung’s half-faired equivalent of Suzuki’s $8,799.00 SV650S is positioned to be about $600.00 less expensive. At that point the question is whether a $600.00 savings will be enough to bring riders flocking to a new and untested brand. Dealers seem to think so, according to Aubichon the dealer response has been, “Fantastic. It’s the price point too.”
The biggest winner of the Hyosung line may not be their 250, or even their sport-inspired bikes, but the Aquila GV650 cruiser. The Aquila is using the same engine as the sportier 650’s with a similar output, says Aubichon. If that’s the case, based on output alone the Aquila could be shoved into the unique market position of “entry level power-cruiser”.
So in the end, it’s the beginning; Hyosung may be to this decade what Honda was to the 60s and 70s, given their plans to expand the line-up to include a selection of 1000cc bikes it seems possible. The question remains whether the product has the chops to go the distance in a very competitive bike market, or whether the price point is low enough that riders will give a new brand a try.