How Kawasaki Broke the Green Motorcycle Curse

When it comes to innovative sportbikes built for speed, Kawasaki is considered one of the best brands on the market. Since the 1960s, the brand has established themselves as producers of exceptionally engineered and speedy sportbikes that, with that iconic and unmistakable green, are some of the most recognizable on the market.

Even though many may consider it a staple in their image, Kawasaki didn’t always sport its bright, neon green color. In fact, green motorcycles were long thought to be unlucky, and sometimes deadly, machines. It was Kawasaki's bold takeback of the cursed color that created their stand-out image, and it all started with a crazy idea and a little bit of luck.


 

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In 1968, Kawasaki had been creating motorcycles for over five years, but they were having a difficult time establishing their image. The A1 Samurai had just been released, and Kawasaki understood that they had a real chance at capturing the market with their bikes. While their racing success was making waves on the track, their aesthetic, however, tended to blend in with the drab, traditional colors of their competitors. The company needed to bring their name to the forefront of consumers' minds, and they would need to do something bold, something daring, to do so.

George Hamawaki, the President of Kawasaki, acknowledged that while the company was steadfast in creating a quality, industry-changing product, the brand needed to stand out among its competitors. He tasked Kawasaki’s National Sales Manager, Don Graves, with the mission of altering Kawasaki’s image into a recognizable masterpiece.

His idea? Make Kawasaki racing motorcycles green.

Graves’ proposed color change caused quite the hubbub. Originally, no one was on board, including Hamawaki. Green motorcycles had a stigma; they were deadly, and, considering that racers are some of the most superstitious of folks, the presence of a green Kawasaki motorcycle on the track would lead to an uproar.

But without great risk, you can’t expect a reward. Kawasaki wanted to stand out against the rest, and create an image that was as revolutionary as their technology. An uproar was exactly what they wanted, and all Graves was merely stating was, if you don’t want to join them, then beat them. Hard.

You could say that Graves’ plan combined all the stigma of an unlucky color with the grit and determination of the brand. Add in just a dash of good luck and some determination on the track, and Kawasaki took that so-called “curse” and turned it on its head. Kawasaki embraced the image and, combined such a jaw-dropping bout of tradition-breaking, their winning streak just added salt to the wounds of their competitors. It wasn’t long before the bold, bright, and formerly bad luck color-choice became an integral part of their image, and their victory.

As Kawasaki would say, they are a brand built on overcoming challenges. They strived for what was considered impossible, and wouldn’t accept “no” as an answer. And because Kawasaki wasn’t--and continues to be-- unafraid of a challenge, they continue to be one of the top-performing and easily recognized motorcycle brands in the world.

Video source: Television Archives

 


 

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