Honda will kill off the CBR600RR at the end of this year the current bike isn’t able to meet imminent Euro4 noise and emissions standards, which come into force on January 1, 2017. After that date a limited number of bikes can be sold in the UK and Europe under ‘derogation’ rules. After that, a model which has been a staple of the British biking diet for the past 30 years will be killed off.
There’s still no official word from Honda about the future of the CBR600RR but MCN’s Japanese sources have confirmed there’s not going to be a European replacement for the ultra-focussed CBR600RR, while the existing model could continue to be sold in markets unaffected by Euro4 legislation.
Go back just a few years and the thought of there being no CBR600RR in the Honda line-up would have been unthinkable; now it appears that the massive drop in sales, that changing shape of the market and the increasing lack of importance in the supersport racing category have all conspired to kill off the model.
The supersport 600 class is further hampered by the development costs of engineering. A new bike for the 600cc class is almost the same cost as that for a 1000cc bike. The levels of engineering complexity are the same, the packaging issues are equally challenging, consumer demands for the latest electronics are the same but there’s no appetite for paying more and therefore the profit margins for manufacturers is tiny.
MCN’s Japanese source told us: “It’s not been an easy decision to make for some at Honda because the CBR600 is a bike that has had a great deal of importance to the company over the years but the fact is this model isn’t selling in the numbers needed to make it viable for another model to be developed.
“The work needed to get this bike through Euro4 is expensive and there is a lot of detail work to be done to make the bike legal. In order to keep the character of the CBR600RR intact and keep it legal requires a lot more work than it first appears. This work adds weight, complexity and cost. The weight would then need to be removed from somewhere else and then the bike gets more expensive still.”
The way Honda finances new bike development may have played a part in the demise of the CBR600RR too. Unlike some companies that operate a global bike development policy, Honda asks each region to pay a share of each bike to be engineered and built. In this way Honda Europe and other regions that need Euro4 compliant bikes to sell may have looked at the numbers being sold and just refused to pay up as they knew full well they would never get the investment back. For the opposite reason, the large potential market in the USA may well have refused to pay for all of the work needed for Euro4 because it’s not relevant to the US market at all. Why pay for work to make a bike legal when you don’t have to?
Honda aren’t giving up on sportsbikes; there’s a new CBR1000RR Fireblade coming for 2017 but the 600cc category has suffered a massive drop in sales since the heyday of that class in the late 1990s early 2000s. The current big-selling CBR650F will continue to offer a mid-capacity choice for those wanting a fun, sporty road bike – much like the original CBR600F was when it was first launched in 1987, and before it became the track missile aimed at racing success in 2003.
The supersport 600 category has been responsible for its own demise in some ways. Racing demanded the road bike to be more extreme, but fewer and fewer road riders wanted a bike that was so track focused, and because the sales are low there’s no incentive for the manufacturers to spend money developing new ones – which gives buyers no incentive to upgrade. And so the cycle continues.
Back in the late 1990s the CBR600F sold more than 4500 units in the UK each year. Last year, only 150 CBR600RRs were brought into the UK, and many of those went straight to the Honda Ron Haslam Race School rather than into dealers.
It’s the end of an era.
What does the future hold for the other supersport 600s?
Yamaha UK’s Jeff Turner said: “The current Yamaha YZF-R6 is not Euro4 compliant because it would need ABS and different emissions control to pass those new regulations. We can continue to sell the current bike for a little while longer but Euro4 isn’t going away.
“As part of Yamaha’s DNA is the goal to have a full line-up of supersport models from 125cc through to 1000cc. There could be a technical solution to Euro4 that doesn’t necessarily cause too many problems for us. This is not a super high priority because of the volumes involved right now.”
Suzuki GB’s General Manager Paul de Lusignan told MCN: “The current GSX-R600 will continue to form part of our model line-up into 2017, as we are using the period of derogation available to manufacturers to continue to sell models that don’t yet meet the Euro 4 requirements.
“The GSX-R600 is still very popular, selling strongly last year. In fact, last year the 600 market actually grew for us, with sales up by nearly 13% from 2014. GSX-R is a range of machines that is incredibly important to Suzuki and is a huge part of our history. The new GSX-R1000 is in development for 2017, but the GSX-R600 and GSX-R750 are just as important.”
Kawasaki European PR Manager, Martin Lambert: “The Supersport 600 class is especially interesting for Kawasaki as we can rightly claim to have been fundamental in its development with the GPz600R in the 1980s.
“Moving forward we are already considering a multitude of factors, those being incoming and ongoing legislation, the direction of the market and demand from consumers plus how machines fit as part of a total brand offering. One thing is for sure, Kawasaki believes in the virtues of mid-capacity sports motorcycles.”
Triumph Daytona 675
Triumph were the last manufacturer to release an all-new bike with the latest Daytona 675 but the company admitted that bike only went ahead because so much time and money had already been spent on it before the global financial meltdown of 2009. Had that bike been a bit less developed Triumph official admitted it would have been mothballed and never seen the light of day. MCN understands the next Daytona (still at least a year away) will ditch the 675cc inline three-cylinder motor and go up in capacity to a 765cc motor to make it an even better road bike.
Looking to buy a supersports 600? Visit MCNbikesforsale.com or use MCN's Bikes For Sale App.