The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) claims it represents everyday bikers, protecting them from overreach by lawmakers and acting as their voice in the court of public opinion.
It certainly wasn’t doing that in 2010 when it told the news media that the average cost for a motorcycle antilock brake system (ABS) was $1,000 a pop, too pricey for most bikers. According to government research, the real figure is less than $300. This is an early example of “fake news” from AMA.
Harley-Davidson and several of the AMA’s other industry backers were trying to stop the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from mandating ABS at the time. Data showed the technology had the potential to save the lives of 1,500 American motorcyclists a year, but a national mandate would have been bad for the industry’s bottom line. Harley and its competitors sold the feature as a “luxury” upgrade, and they didn’t want to see that profit center disappear.
The AMA was following a playbook written more than 40 years ago, when NHTSA was a brand-new agency. General Motors and other big automakers were doing everything they could to kill mandatory seatbelts, which they felt would hurt their sales.
Like Harley, the automakers lobbied the agency itself—but they also played a PR game, publicly claiming seatbelts made cars too expensive, that they were too uncomfortable to wear, and even that they were downright dangerous.
The difference here? The AMA claims to represent everyday motorcycle riders—the very people who would benefit from a nationwide mandate on ABS.