Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 9th July 2009

The latest new motorcycle sales figures for June 2009 have been released by the MCIA, and they suggest a dramatic drop in sales. But insidebikes has discovered that there are still sectors of the market which are doing well.

Alastair Walker reports.

The MCIA report that in June 2009 new motorcycle sales stood at 10,213, down from 12,507 in June 2008, one of the wettest summers in a decade. Mopeds and scoters under 50cc fell by 33% as well. That is an alarming drop, and looking at various classes of motorbike sales, the pattern is gloomy; Touring down 15%, Trail/Enduro down 16%, Supersport down 15% and Custom models off by 22%, at a time of year when you would expect Cruiser type bikes to be selling well.

But are the MCIA stats the full story? insidebikes talked to three dealers in the UK, who represent Triumph, BMW and Honda. Sales Manager Martin at BS Bikes in Staffordshire said that most Triumph models were ` a sell out, with waiting lists until September on models like the Daytona 675 and Tiger 1050.’

Martin reckons that the reason the MCIA stats show a drop is the introduction of the new motorcycle test, with its controversial brake and swerve move.

“How many riders have broken bones, or skinned elbows because they tried to brake hard on a slippy surface, aboard a cheap 125 with not especially grippy budget tyres on it?” asks Martin, who added, “The test is putting a damper on new sub-600cc sales in my opinion, people are giving up on the idea of getting a bike licence because of the test – too expensive, too difficult and too few test centres.

I also think the manufacturers don’t make really economical small bikes anymore. Where are the 175cc commuter bikes that can do 80mpg like an old Honda CD175 from the 70s- even a 750 Bonneville in the 70s could return 60mpg. Now people can buy a car which does that, and bikes struggle to do better than 50mpg.”

Meanwhile, Rachel at Southport Superbikes, a solus BMW franchise, says the shop has had a storming start to 2009.

“We have been awarded a top 10 place in BMW bike sales, in the world, not just the UK.” says Rachel, who reckons the affluent older biker is still buying new machinery;

“Older riders often don’t have the mortgage, family or other expenses that some others have. They also value the strong residuals that BMW motorcycles have, and have time to enjoy their passion, so they buy a bike almost irrespective of the general economic recession. We are seeing some riders switching to the newer BMW models, like the 650/800 GS range, from the bigger 1200cc models, and as a brand we’re shifting away from simply catering to a touring rider market. BMW is broadening its appeal definitely. ”

Rachel thinks that some dealerships are struggling, but thinks the reason is that customers want real value, and outstanding service;

“We can see 50% of our 2009 customer base coming from other brands, or shops,” says Rachel, ” so it is obvious that some dealers are losing out to us in terms of sales. I can see that some brands which have smaller models in their range, sub 500cc machines, may be struggling – I am not sure that a recession automatically prompts people to buy a `cheaper’ motorcycle, as opposed to a car. But BMW dealers, and BMW Motorrad as a brand are doing well this year, in fact the UK is one of only five countries worldwide where BMW bike sales are rising.”

Finally, Harvey Salt at Hunts Honda in Manchester told insidebikes that the CB1300 and CB1000RR Fireblade were very popular this summer, plus the ABS-equipped CBR600RR.

“The enthusiasm for Honda is just as strong. We can’t see any big drop in sales and the 0% finance offer has helped us this year, as low interest rate credit has become hard to obtain elsewhere.”

Harvey said that secondhand stocks were low, after mainland European buyers from Germany and Holland had been buying over winter, due to the strong Euro. He also noted a shift away from big adventure trailbikes, which was echoed by Martin at BS Bikes;

“The big GS thing is coming to an end,” reckons Martin, ” and the Ewan and Charley effect is wearing off. We are seeing R1200GS models being PX’d with only 2000 miles on the clock – unheard of a few years ago. Bikers in 2009 are going for new machines with real grunt, good looks and character – that always sells.”

In a sideswipe at the press, Martin added that he thinks magazines are failing to reflect the real biking scene in the UK;

“I had an advert salesperson phone me and ask if I knew there was a Triumph Bonneville day in August this year, and would I like to advertise? Incredible! We are Triumph dealers, how could we not know about the Bonnie celebration?

This publisher has ignored all the pre-publicity for six months, and probably won’t cover the actual event properly, but they want the trade’s money for a supplement. It makes me want to tear the mags up in frustration. Maybe when publishers get off their behinds and drag their celebrity biker mates to Bonneville Day, rather than some freebie launch, and help drum up political support for Triumph as a manufacturer, then we will support them.”

What do you think about the MCIA sales figures; is biking in a crisis, or are things still holding up well despite the recession?