The Market Dilemma: More Motorcycles, Fewer Buyers

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Categories: Frontlines, News, Event, Motorcycle Culture

The Market Dilemma: More Motorcycles, Fewer Buyers

Each week brings another report of declining motorcycles sales. Numerous reasons have been offered up, including a generation of riders aging out of the sport, disinterested millennials, unaffordable prices, limited choices for new riders, licensing requirements, closures of off-road riding areas, insurance and registration costs, a nervous overall economy, phases of the moon, threats of nuclear war, etc.

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Whatever the case, the situation has reached so dire a point that a committee of industry players convened to discuss matters and come up with some solutions. The occasion was the recent International Motorcycle Show (IMS) in Long Beach, California, a convenient opportunity for bike manufacturers, aftermarket folks, and rider and industry associations to do some brainstorming. Most of the majors joined in the collective, although Triumph was notably absent. (Doing quite well, thanks?)

While the subject has been simmering throughout the industry all year, thus far the consensus has centered on attracting new riders in a shrinking market. The IMS program included a new display called Shift that was designed to engage the younger generation of riders. Another program titled Adventure Out! offered an educational experience for adventure and touring riders featuring a motorcycle campsite, RV lounge, and guidance for outfitting bikes and riders. The show also included a presentation and story telling by Jamie Robinson of MotoGeo.

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“IMS is a space for motorcycle enthusiasts from all walks of life to explore the latest models, discover new gear and connect with their fellow riders, whether they’re aspiring motorcyclists or longtime veterans,” said Tracy Harris, Senior Vice President of Progressive International Motorcycle Shows. “It’s important that the show provides opportunities for riders at every stage in their motorcycling journey to discover the gear that speaks to them directly, and we feel strongly that Shift and Adventure Out! will fill this need for our new and aspiring riders and dedicated adventure riders.”

While members of the traditional industry largely agreed on the need to attract new riders – including women and minorities– and offer more low-cost, entry-level machines, the growing electric power proponents hope to attract them with “emissions free” machines. Alta Motors, for example now has 41 dealers in 18 states.

“The latest dealer partnerships signal the lightweight vehicle market’s growing appetite for electric motor bikes,” said an Alta rep, “and a new opportunity for the aging industry to attract a younger generation of riders. Already, Alta has increased its sales by 18x this year, compared to 2016, and is poised to build upon its leadership in the growing $125B+ global light duty vehicle market.”

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However the competition for market share shakes out in the next few years, regardless of powertrain choices, the current menu offers quite a spectrum of choices for riders of all ages, experience, and budget. And most of them will be on display at the upcoming IMS displays in New York (Dec. 1-3), Minneapolis (Dec. 8-10), Cleveland (Jan. 26-28), Dallas (Feb. 2-4), Chicago (Feb. 2-4), Washington, DC (Feb. 23-25).

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