2012 Q3 Motorcycles Sales Stabilize Market

November 5, 2012
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

Motorcycle Industry Council

Data from the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) reports motorcycle sales holding steady through the third quarter of 2012. The MIC report, which tracks through the end of September, claims a slight 1.3% gain in year-over-year motorcycle sales with a 3.1% increase in ATV sales. One notable change from the Q2 report this summer is a modest rebound for the Off-Highway market, which has erased a 2.2% deficit to even up with 2011 numbers.

On-Highway motorcycles registered a 0.8% increase over 2011 data. The MIC reports 271,767 units sold, up 2062 from last year. On-Highway is by far the largest motorcycle market segment tracked of the MIC data and includes most street and sportbikes, as well as cruiser models.

Scooters continue to show the highest percentage gains of any segment, up 7% through the first nine months of 2012. Traditionally more volatile than the standard motorcycle market, Scooter sales often fluctuate with the cost of gasoline.

The Dual market, which is comprised of dual-sport models and many of the popular adventure-touring bikes, continues its upward trend. Sales through Q3 register a 4.7% increase over 2011, with 23,558 sales in total. The Dual segment exhibited the most robust growth in 2011, with 14.2% year-over-year.

Off-Highway sales through the end of Q3 are now virtually identical to 2011 – with the 51,006 unit claim -0.1% off the previous year’s mark. The segment made up a 2.2% negative growth measured through Q2. Dirt bike sales have continued to drop the past few years, while street models have stabilized, so the modest rebound is an encouraging sign that dirt bikes could be following suit.

The ATV market continues to recover in 2012, though its 3.1% improvement through the third quarter has slowed from the more heartening 5.6% increase at the end of Q2. Current unit sales are claimed at 161,500. However, ATV sales will have to top 60,000 units in Q4 to better last year’s tally of 222,032 – which was a 13.5% loss from 2010 totals. UTV and side-by-side sales are not included in MIC data, a notable omission as industry analysis by Power Products Marketing (PPM), which does track UTV sales, project UTV sales to overtake ATV sales in 2011.

  2012 2011 Change %Change
DUAL  23,558 22,510 1048 4.7%
OFF-HWY  51,006 51,049 -43 -0.1%
ON-HWY  271,767 267,705 2062 0.8%
SCOOTER  29,389 27,474 1915 7.0%
TOTAL  375,720  370,738 4982  1.3%
ATV  161,500  156,672 4828  3.1%

While the latest stats from the MIC continue the trend of market stabilization, sales recovery has been modest. The projected numbers for 2012 are particularly sobering when compared to pre-market crash of 2008. Consider the following 2008 segment totals: 611,133 On-Highway, 146,779 Off-Highway, 76,748 Scooter, 45,250 Dual, 454,098 ATV.

The MIC has already forecast that sales in 2012 will likely decline, predicting unemployment and stagnant incomes will make consumers cautious of large-ticket purchases. The forecast was notable as the MIC’s first attempt to project future sales.

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