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Scooters Buck Motorcycle Sales Trend

Friday, February 6, 2009
2009 Vespa GTS 300 Super scooter
Overall motorcycle sales are down but scooters are booming.
Scooters and dual-purpose bikes were the brightest spots in last year's Motorcycle Industry Council Retail Sales Report, which reveals percentage growth or decreases among all categories of bikes in 2008. Scooter sales through December, among the four reporting brands in that segment, were up 41.5 percent compared to all of 2007. Dual-purpose bike sales jumped 22.8 percent last year for the six brands tracked. No other categories in the report showed an increase.

"Overall, motorcycle sales were down 7.2 percent, not nearly as sharp a decline as many other consumer products in today's economy," said MIC President Tim Buche. "We'll look at 2008 as a big year for scooters, dual-purpose bikes and small-displacement motorcycles. If it was smart-sized, offered great value and high fuel mileage, then chances are it was a sales success. Availability mattered, too. Many dealers could have sold more of these kinds of motorcycles if they only had them. Demand was so much higher than anyone could have expected."

The MIC Retail Sales Report compiles U.S. sales information every month from 12 leading motorcycle distributors: BMW, Can-Am, Ducati, Harley-Davidson/Buell, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, the Piaggio Group, Victory, Suzuki, Triumph and Yamaha. It provides an indicator of market trends. The MIC is working to release an initial estimate of overall motorcycle sales in mid-February and a final estimate by midyear. Both of these estimates will factor in all of the brands sold in the U.S.

Among these 12 Retail Sales Report brands, the on-highway segment slipped by just 5.6 percent last year. This includes cruisers, sport bikes, touring bikes and traditional or standard motorcycles.

The off-highway market dropped 30 percent. This was among six brands, as not all of the participating manufacturers produce off-highway models.

As it seemed to several times in the past, a rise in gas prices may have pumped up sales of smaller, more economical motorcycles. Preliminary findings from the 2008 MIC Owner Survey suggest that Americans are looking at motorcycles more for transportation, not only recreation.

Through the first nine months of that study, with the final quarter results still to be factored in, commuting and errands moved up to second place among reasons for riding. Five years earlier, in the 2003 survey, commuting and errands ranked in third place, behind touring.

"Casual riding and riding for pleasure are still the top reasons for Americans to go motorcycling," Buche said. "But more people are seeing motorcycles as green transportation that can help reduce traffic congestion and make parking easier. Even larger motorcycles are still affordable, can deliver twice the fuel economy of many cars, and all of these bikes serve up weekend adventure and socializing as well. We could find that many people who are getting into bikes just for the economics will discover the moto DNA within themselves and wind up becoming lifelong riders."

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Popssss   October 17, 2011 09:35 PM
OK, so I'm late to the discussion. I'm restoring two bikes, a 1983 CB550 Nighthawk, and a 1980 KZ650. Why you ask, because no one makes a decent 400-700CC standard...OK the bikes from Triumph may be close. The Bonneville and Thruxton are close to what I like, but they're much bigger. I'd look for a CB160-CB360/400 for my boys as they get older...why restore, because there isn't the selection anymore for newer riders. The baby boomers are aging, and the GenY and Z are coming of age and need to get off riding. The 400 and 600 Bandits were great bikes, but maybe too sporty for some, so was the Yamaha Radian (one for sale in Lincoln NE, and it's beautiful). Kawasaki makes a great 800CC standard in Europe but it won't be offered here. I think the best way to bring new bikers to the fold, is to follow some of the steps Europeans have to go through. There are lots of classes of bike, rated and insured by CC and Horsepower numbers. New riders by law have to ride smaller bikes for a certain time before they can move up. We would see many more newer riders begging for smaller liter bikes. and not just the CBR250 or Ninja 250 style, because that style of bike is in a higher class than a standard style like the SV650. How about a SV400? or SV800? why go from 650 - 1000...? Here in the US, an 18 yr old can buy 200MPH super bike as long as they can afford insurance, off they go. We make it too easy for new riders to kill themselves. Lets get some legislation passed to start small, gain experience, and groom the biker from a youngster. They just may stay bikers their whole life if they get introduced to it properly.
Old Geezer -Little Bikes  November 24, 2010 11:40 AM
Way back when I was a lad we conquered the land on 160cc Hondas and 250 Suzuki Hustlers. It seems the smaller bikes back then also had performance well beyond the few tiddlers available today. Too bad we are so hung up on "Magnum Mania".
Larry -Big Bikes  July 7, 2010 07:35 AM
Having grown up when a BIG bike was a CB450, or Bonneville or Goldstar, I too wonder where are all the capable and great midrange cc and $$ bikes are. I would have to guess that American buying habits shape what is shipped to us- I agree that bigger is not always better- just usually faster!
ntrudr_800 -America (USA) needs AFFORDABLE small dispacement motorcycles!  February 6, 2010 02:50 PM
I would buy a $1000 110 cc Honda in a Jiffy! Like a Honda Cub 110 (!) or that new bike that's going to sell in India... :( All of our 250cc bikes have gone from $3k to $4k. 1/3 the price of my Toyota Camry! This is just ridiculous! Stupid! They don't even have tachometers! I am furious! I refuse to pay $4k for a cheap Honda Rebel. The Rebel is a $2k bike. Used to sell for 3k. Now it is 4k. Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki: We the people of the USA need affordable 100cc, 200cc, and 300cc bikes for America. Now is the time. Girls don't care what bike you ride. Really. The most awesome girls I have met are sweet and would have fun riding a scooter! Bigger is not better. If your girl requires bigger, then maybe you should find someone that has not been 'around.' hahahahahaha
clb3 -Bike Sales  February 10, 2009 07:25 PM
joe -scooter sales article  February 10, 2009 03:12 PM
where are the 250-600 standards. when i started riding 30 years ago we had bikes like the nighthawk 450 and yamaha vision 500. these were great entry level bikes, now the sales staff are pushing r6's and ninja's that are too powerfull for the beginner rider. my daily rider is a klr650, and i think you will find that alot of riders want that kind of motorcycle. light, easy to manuver aand fantastic gas mileage. i have no desire for a chromed out noisy cruiser that i cannot take on a fire road. like jack i also see the bikes offered in europe and wonder why we don't get them here.
Jack Meoph -scooter sales article  February 9, 2009 07:55 PM
And yet the manufacturers (Japanese) keep shoving liter bikes down our throats while keeping the small displacement bikes (500cc and under) in Europe and Asia. This year, 2009, will continue to see a decrease in MC sales, because no where in the 2009 line ups were there any new 500cc and under motorcycles to be had. The solution was to send us a $15K super scooter that is ugly, expensive, and weak. Thanks for thinking of us Honda, between kicking the American consumer in the teeth and dumping Hayden for Pedobot in MotoGP, I expect to see your sales figures take a 25% or more dump from last years nose dive. Keep letting those guys with the superbike backgrounds make your marketing decisions for you. I mean the new Yamaha R1 has nothing...oh meant EVERYTHING on your CBR. And the "chopper" you're introducing...........hahahahahahahaha focus groups, honestly....