When it comes to electric motorcycles, Zero Motorcycles is the only game in town. Yet most people have never heard of the company.
Like Tesla, Zero Motorcycle is a Californian start-up that only produces electric vehicles. Like Tesla, they are the pioneer in their field. They are both the first ones that produced electric vehicles in numbers, the first ones that sold in any kind of numbers, and that developed internationally. Today, other car manufacturers produce electric vehicles, yet Tesla is being perceived as THE electric car manufacturer and has an international following of fan-like admirers and customers. Tesla is in the news almost every day, its founder is like a rock star, and the company has a market capitalization of over $30 billion.
Back to Zero. The company has basically no competition, their competitors are either reorganizing (Brammo/Victory), or late and expensive (Energica), or status unknown when it comes to production (Alta, Lightning). Zero has developed a full range of products and sells all over the world. But it is rarely in the news, only die-hard motorcycle fans or alternative energy aficionados know about its bikes.
Why are Zero’s motorcycles such a best kept secret? Surely Zero could find a charismatic leader that can embody its spirit and values for the public and the media. And why is the company so secretive? Why does it not communicate about its future products and create some excitement? Just look at the media circus for the presentation of the Tesla Model III, a car that was announced several years ago and won’t be available before 2018. Why doesn’t Zero have a more developed marketing program? Why does it not sponsor or create events? The story of Zero Motorcycles is as interesting as Tesla’s, yet nobody knows it. Can it develop a narrative about the company that catches the interest of the opinion makers?
Just look at Energica. It has barely delivered a few bikes, and it is already a public company trading on the stock market. If Zero went public, it would catch the media’s attention and the company would get the funds to expand its public relations and marketing programs.
Also, there are other ways to expose people to their products. In France, for example, one can rent a Zero DS 12.4 in Paris or in Nice, on the French Riviera. It is a Spanish company, Cooltra, which is making this possible. Try to rent a Zero in the US: good luck! Why isn’t Zero working with bike or car rental firms in the US to offer electric motorcycles? Or find tour companies to develop tours of the National Parks on electric bikes? Again, in Europe, there is a private company offering tours of the Alps on Zero bikes.
Maybe it is time for the little company based in Scotts Valley to realize its full potential, and take advantage of a window of opportunity that is not going to last. Sooner or later, the Japanese and European manufacturers will enter the electric motorcycle market, and then it will become much harder for Zero.