News of a market downturn was expected after first quarter financials from Harley-Davidson and Polaris Industries were made public in late April. The American brands reported double-digit drops for the industry as a whole, with Polaris down 3% in Q1 sales and Harley-Davidson claiming a 12.7% drop in sales for its domestic market.
Explanation for the Q1 downturn has been blamed, in part, on the weather. H-D and Polaris Q1 financial reports both cite last year’s unseasonably warm weather in Q1 as a factor in the disappointing results. The rational is warmer weather fueled sales earlier in the season, and 2012 Q1 totals were up 6.7% from 2011 – before falling off the pace to register just 2.8% year-over-year increase at the end of Q2. (Further support for the weather factor is the recent report from the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, which cited the extended riding season as a main causation for the increase in motorcycle fatalities for 2012.)
On-Highway motorcycle sales, which encompass most street-legal bikes, including cruisers, totaled 64,706 units for the quarter. This On-Highway segment is by far the largest MIC designation, and its 16.2% decrease represents a 12,482 unit loss.
Scooter sales, which traditionally show the most fluctuation year-over-year, continue to be erratic. This year only 4771 scooters were sold in Q1, compared to the 7300 total of last year – a 34.6% drop. The MIC data only reflects scooter sales from MIC members, excluding most Chinese-built scooters.
The rising popularity of the dual segment, which includes many Adventure-Touring models as well as more traditional street-legal dual-sports, took a hit as well. Year-over-year sales were down 1115 units, a 14.9% drop.
The Off-Highway market remained steady at 17,548 units sold – up 76 units from 2012. The Off-Highway market’s reversal contrasts the trend of recent years, which saw dirt bike sales continue to decline while the remaining on-highway market stabilized. Last year marked the first positive annual sales growth in the Off-Highway segment in years – up a modest 2.1%.
Not all news was good for the OHV market, however, as ATV sales struggled – down 10.4% for the quarter. The MIC does not track sales for the UTV/Side-by-Side market, however, at least one source cites a decline in the segment – the popularity of which has soared in recent years. The Polaris Q1 report claims ORV (its designation for UTV/Side-by-Sides) industry sales were down in the single digits – also stating that ATV industry sales suffered a double digit decline now confirmed by the MIC data.
Total motorcycle sales for the quarter was at 93,375 units, down from 109,425 last year. If the trend continues, sales will struggle to keep above the annual 400,000 unit threshold which the market has held following the 2008 recession.
MIC sales data is compiled by reports from its member brands: BMW, Can-Am, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, the Piaggio Group, Victory, Suzuki, Triumph and Yamaha.