Honda will kill the CBR600RR at the end of this year because it can’t meet imminent EURO 4 noise and emissions regs, which come into force on January 1, 2017. A limited number of CBRs will remain on sale in the UK and Europe as the legislation comes into force but after that a model which has been a staple of the British biking diet for the past 30 years will be no more.
|It’s hard to believe that Honda brought only 150 CBR600RRs into the UK last year|
There’s still no official word from Honda, but Our sources have confirmed there’s not going to be a European replacement for the outgoing CBR600RR. The massive drop in sales, the changing shape of the market and the declining importance of the supersport racing category have all conspired to kill off the model.
The supersport 600 class is further hampered by development costs. The costs involved in designing and building a new supersports 600 are virtually the same as those for a 1000. The levels of engineering complexity are the same, the packaging issues are equally challenging and consumer demands for the latest electronics are just as high – but there’s no appetite for paying more, and therefore profit margins are tiny.
Our source told us: “It’s not been an easy decision 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 effort 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 would get more expensive still.”
The way Honda finances new bike development may also have played a part in the demise of the CBR. Unlike some companies that operate a global bike development policy, Honda asks each region to pay a share of each bike. Honda Europe and other regions that need EURO4 compliant bikes may have looked at the numbers being sold and just refused to pay as they know they would never get the investment back. For the opposite reason, the US importer may well have refused to pay for the work needed for Euro4 because it’s not relevant to the US market.
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 CBR600RR track missile aimed at racing success in 2003.
|The jellymould Honda CBR600F spawned a dynasty of big-selling machines|
In some ways the supersport 600 category has been responsible for its own demise. Racing demanded the road bike to be more extreme, but fewer and fewer road riders wanted a bike that was so track focused. Back in the late 1990s the CBR600F sold more than 4500 units in the UK each year. Shockingly 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. Despite the UK voting to leave the EU last week, industry insiders expect Euro4 to continue as manufacturers won’t want to produce a separate spec for the UK. And in any case, it could be two years before the UK leaves the EU.
THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SUPERSPORTS 600
The Honda CBR600F and RR were some of the biggest-selling bikes in the UK over the last 30 years – today’s tiny sales figures mask the huge volumes these bikes achieved when they peaked during the 1990s and early 2000s.
In 1997 Honda sold 3696 CBR600F models, in 1999 it rose to 4447, before dropping back to 3231 the following year. In 2000 only Yamaha’s YZF-R6 and R1 sold more at 4233 and 3401 respectively. Looking back at 1999 in detail shows how important supersport 600s were to the UK market. The top four best-selling machines in the UK that year were the CBR600F at 4447, the R6 at 4033,
Kawasaki’s ZX-6R at 3586 and the Suzuki GSX-R600 at 2235. Today’s figures are a fraction of that. Yamaha, for example, didn’t even sell 100 YZF-R6s in Britain last year.