Chips and challenges | Kawasaki Motors Kenji Nagahara on the ‘new normal’

Kawasaki Motors Europe Managing Director Kenji Nagahara talks about COVID-19, computer chips, and the boom in global motorcycling

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MOTORCYCLING in 2020 and 2021 will truly be remembered as a period of feast and famine. On the one hand, we have closed dealerships, zero motorcycle events, and for many, not a great deal of riding to be done. On the other, we have booming sales and a 570% increase in sales for the month of April.

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But while a massive increase in sales sounds like a good thing, there is a problem bubbling away in the global motorcycle industry. And it’s nothing to do with tyres, or engines, or any of the oily bits of motorcycle manufacture. It to do with the smallest parts that go into building a motorcycle, the chips and semi-conductors used to power systems like ABS and traction control.

The sudden demand in the past twelve months for lap-top computers and other goods that rely on semi-conductors has contributed to the problem, with the Suez Canal blockage adding to what Kawasaki Motors Europe Managing Director, Kenji Nagahara describes as a “perfect storm”.

“A number of factors are currently affecting our factories in terms of supply of parts and materials. Like many other motorcycle manufacturers, we have been affected by the severe shortage of semi-conductors which are installed in many electrical components of many motorcycles in our range and are integral to core systems such as ABS braking.

Compounding the semi-conductor issue, a global shortage of the specific resins needed to manufacturer certain motorcycle parts is also affecting production, as Nagahara explains.

“This triple blow to production is a real challenge. We cannot simply exchange one resin for another as all materials used in manufacture are tested and approved according to EU law and machine homologation. It is something the factory is investigating now, and we hope to resolve the issues that face us within a short timeframe. These issues are not unique to Kawasaki; the majority of manufacturers that use these semi-conductors and resins, coupled with the continuing interruption in global shipping and container movements plus the recent closure of Suez Canal, means that importers and exporters are equally affected and it is in all our interests to find a quick answer to the problem.”

In closing, Mr Nagahara was pragmatic about the unfolding situation and highlighted Kawasaki’s intention to minimise any impact as much as possible.

“Many Kawasaki service departments have been open across the pandemic keeping essential workers on the road. Now, as the broader situation and regulations change many Kawasaki dealers across Europe are opening their doors to customers eager to enjoy their machines. Dealer stock is being monitored daily and we are supplying inventory from our European warehouse. Our aim is to maintain the supply of product as much as possible while mitigating for any shortages or production issues within our ability. We thank customers and dealers in advance for their patience and promise we will do everything within our power to face up to this challenge”.