CASE 2-1: Are Three Wheels Better than Two? The Can-Am Spyder
In the month of February year 2007, world-leading motorized vehicle designer and producer Bombardier Recreational Products, revealed the very first Can-Am Spyder, an innovative motorcycle design with “Y-architecture”, wherein two wheels are placed in the front, and a single wheel at the rear, which is contradictory in design with normal “trikes”, of which the placement of wheels are exactly the opposite. Bombardier is well-known for its brands of recreational motorized vehicles, including the “Ski-Doo® snowmobiles and Sea-Doo® watercraft”. The design of Spyder was made to enhance stability and safety, such that any fear of tipping when leaning into turns or difficulty in hard-hitting the breaks to full stop is minimized, due to the vehicle’s automatic stability control and anti-lock brakes systems. Bombardier even quoted that Spyder performs as a traditional motorcycle but with the safety promises “of a convertible sports car”.
Spyder’s target market is men of 35 – 45 years age bracket, or typical old men with penchant for stylish and expensive “toys for the boys”, since the Spyder’s design is unique, sophisticated and modern, and quite costly with a tag price of almost $15000. Even the now defunct “The Tonight’s Show” host Jay Leno purchased the very first Spyder to be released in the market. However, Spyder, contrary to the negative expectations of many, and even of its makers based on the niche they target, have attracted women and men, young and old. In fact, as of 2008, sales expanded to 35 of the country’s states, and even internationally to 50 countries, showing that Spyder is performing well and successfully in the market. It’s too early to say though, how far this success will fare in the future, or whether this brisk efficient performance of sales is just an initial buzz, or a here to stay (Quinlan-Wilder, cit. by Babin & Harris, 2013).
- Do purchasers of the Can-Am Spyder have utilitarian motivations? Hedonics ones? Both?
Consumer Motivations for Spyder
Jones and Page (1987) stated that motivation originates from unsatisfied needs, which are built in a hierarchy described by Abraham Maslow, from the most basic i.e. basis for survival, at the bottom to self-actualization, or successful growth as a human, at the top. This hierarchy has long been used to understand what motivates consumers and organizations (Babin & Harris 2013, p88). The same with other vehicles used for transportation, Spyder can bring a person or goods from one place to another, which therefore serves the fundamental utilitarian motivation of easy and fast traveling. Moreover, its anti-brake locks and stability auxiliaries satisfy the utilitarian need for safety, particularly for older people who have difficulty in balancing on two wheeled vehicles. Based on the case study however, the target niche of Spyder, i.e. old men with passion for big toys, questions the utilitarian nature of consumer motivation, and instead is more close to the hedonistic motivation, since the product’s design and function is more likely to satisfy hobbyists and unique vehicle collectors, especially now that it’s still unknown whether the brisk success of Spyder in the market is something that’s here to stay, or just an initial buzz.
- BRS states that it delivers “paradigm-shifting vehicles that push the envelope”. Considering a prospective customer’s existing product schema for a motorbike, discuss the implications for cognitive organization, comprehension and acceptance of this vehicle by motorcycle enthusiasts.
Implications of Consumers’ Product Schema for Spyder
Typical two-wheeled vehicles have the impressions of adventure and coolness (as in person) to the minds of most consumers. They also provide the picture of fast and more convenient transportation, especially during heavy traffic. The common “trike” on the other hand is a picture of higher stability than motorcycles, because the need to balance is completely eradicated. Spyder does not pass in any of the two schema, since its sophisticated and modern designs, as well as state-of-the-art functions and accessories, not to mention its costly price, implies a “collector’s item” image to most consumers, specifically those who just need something for easy and fast travel. Spyder’s architecture also falls short of fast transpo expectations, because it cannot pass conveniently in between tight spaces during traffic, and the Y-design makes it difficult to avoid potholes or road debris. In a nutshell, Spyder is like a curious, pretty-looking insect that has never been categorized, so people cannot accept it immediately, which is quite risky economically speaking for BRS. Curiosity and excitement might be the most effective consumer magnet of Spyder, but BRS must work hard to not lose this
in disappointments and disillusionment.
- At introduction of this vehicle, would an attitude change strategy be necessary to convert the curious into customers? If so, what might be effective?
Effective Strategies for Consumer Conversion
According to the case study, some reviews reported negative observations about Spyder, including difficulties in handling during traffic, as well as fuel inefficiency. The lack of categorization for the vehicle is another wall to break, if BRS wants more consumers to jump ship to Spyder from the traditional two-wheeled (or three-wheeled) vehicles. One of its redeeming factors, and probably the most important if common consumers, and not just hobbyists, are to be considered, is its safety mechanisms, which definitely provide more peace of mind and driving comfort. This can be the emphasis of BRS’ persuasion that will be shown primarily in central cues media and systems, as well as advertisements and commercials, if any. Safety on the road equates to life and longevity, and it’s more than enough reason to jump ship from one product to another.
- Visit the website brp.com as if you were a potential customer for this product. Is the typical site visitor likely to learn about the product intentionally or unintentionally? Do you think the website has been created to maximize the learning that can occur there?
Efficiency of Website and Functions
Since not all consumers can be encompassed by Spyder’s promises that commonly entice hobbyists and collectors, another tool to increase sales is to provide effective and enough information to internet users through company websites. Majority of people use the internet more than half of the day, and this is a great opportunity to showcase what the Company, and specifically the product, has to offer. Spyder, unfortunately, has fallen short in advertising and its market potential, and its marketability depends largely in word of mouth through personal contacts or online forums, and sharing of information among hobbyists. RBS official website therefore, must play a huge responsibility of informing the public efficiently, to catch attention of the curious lot, and provide information to intentional prospects.
The site offers a great deal, from models, to accessories, and dealership links to forums. Other relevant information includes licensing issues in the US and Canada, vehicles available in every region, promotional materials, and online blogs and articles from other users. There is however, a lack of more appreciated vision tools, such as videos. Moreover, a good recommendation will be an offer of test drive in the nearest stores that present Spyder, just so prospects can have the immediate feel and evaluation of the product. A site for the latest events or shows where Spyder will be presented with free test drive is also recommended.
Spyder, despite its primary properties pointing to its “hobbyist item” image, including its expensive cost and sophisticated design that fall short in areas such as convenience in heavy traffic and efficiency in fuel consumption, can still be the thing for common consumers due to its additional auxiliaries that promise more safety and stability in the road for all people who can drive. Curiosity and uniqueness are BRS’ most effective strategies in attracting potential customers, who have intentional goals to know more about Spyder, or probably buy one. In this regard, the BRS website that showcase Spyder models must be enhanced, and provision of test drive must be offered as well. Although the success of Spyder sales in the market is considered by some as a possible initial buzz, this can become cemented, and Spyder be a regular of the road, if BRS and its market team will make the product closer to what the common consumers expect and need, i.e. converting its capacity to suffice utilitarian motives more than hedonistic.
Babin B. and E. Harris. (2013). CB4. Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning.
Jones, L. and D. Page. (1987). “Theories of Motivation”. Education + Training, 29 (3) : 12 – 16.
 BRP adds a Touring model to its Can-Am Spyder Roadster line-up. (2009, September 2). PR Newswire, pNA.