Indiana is on the verge of redeeming itself in the eyes of Asphalt & Rubber, as the Hoosier State is all set to vote on allowing motorcycle dealers to sell bikes on the Lord’s day (that’s Sunday for you heathens). Indiana State Senate Bill 192, which is sponsored by State Senator Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso), would end Indiana’s ban on “buying, selling or trading motorcycles on Sundays.” The bill is a part of a larger national movement to do away with one of the motorcycle industries more puritanical customs of trade.
Before I make my customary offensive remarks about states that aren’t California, it should be noted that we here at Asphalt & Rubber are eternally grateful for the fine Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the birthplace of our humble motorcycle news blog. That being said, it’s also good to see that the Keystone State has pulled its head out of its ass long enough to pass a bill (passed in the Senate, with the House still to vote) that would allow motorcycle dealers to sell motorcycles on Sundays, though car dealers will still have to abide by the current legislation.
“I’m not sure why it was ever done,” said State Representative Eugene DePasquale (York County). “I’ll leave it to legislators who were alive when that passed to answer that one.” Talking of keeping the status quo for car dealers, State Senator Richard Alloway II (Adams, Franklin, and York Counties), the bill’s co-sponsor, said, “I have heard a lot of car dealers like to be closed, so it’s a day people can walk lots with no pressure from anyone and window shop.”
As we write the timeline on the evolution of the electric motorcycle, the bullet points for 2011 will note a few key events, and one of them surely will be the adoption of a traditional sales distribution scheme. It’s not a sexy event, but it’s an important one in the growth of this side of the industry. You see when resourced-backed electric motorcycle manufacturers entered the scene, the idea was that a new drivetrain meant a new set of rules, and from that a new playbook was drafted. The idea of selling electric motorcycles at traditional motorcycle dealerships was abandoned, and in its place these companies tried new approaches — some clever, and some not so much.
Direct-to-consumer sales approaches, online purchasing, ad hoc customer sales leads, and even Best Buy all entered into these new models of how to get a motorcycle into a purchaser’s hands…and they all failed. It is no small feat to start a motorcycle company, and it is an even taller order to make an electric one. Not only do you have to sell your would-be-buyer on the features of your motorcycle, but you then also have to sell them on why their purchase should be an electric motorcycle, and not its ICE equivalent.
The undertaking of proving out a new method of selling motorcycles is a burden in its own right for an established motorcycle manufacturer, let alone a startup, so its failure should come as little surprise to those in the industry with this experience. It is therefore not surprising that we get news that both Zero Motorcycles and Brammo have abandoned their previous sales distribution schemes, in favor of adopting a more traditional dealer network approach.
Harley-Davidson has instructed its dealers not to talk about how sales have been throughout the recession, but the news that 36 dealerships have closed in the past year, and more closures are expected in 2011, speaks for itself on how sales have been. On a conference call with analysts CFO John Olin said, “This contraction was expected and in-line with our desire to modestly consolidate our U.S. dealer network in response to lower overall volume since the economic downturn took hold,” which is a very glossed over way of saying that American brand has become too bloated over the past years, and needs to go on a diet.
Harley-Davidson expects to ship between 221,000 & 228,000 motorcycles worldwide in 2011, which is up 8% over last year’s figure, but still pales in comparison to the numbers the Milwaukee brand was posting before the economic collapse (303,479 in 2008). Since 2006, sales at Harley-Davdison have continued to slide, but the most dramatic affect was in 2010, where sales were down 30% compared to before the recession (over 36% in the domestic market).
Ducati North America has announced that the Hypermotard 796 will be in dealerships before the New Year, and some dealerships will have the new motard as early as this weekend (that’s tomorrow, or today if you work in the A&R office!).
If you’re having a hard time finding the right gift for that special motorcyclist in your life, this might be the chance to get them what they really want this year. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a $9,995 lightweight red Ducati Hypermotard 796 with a bow on it. Press release after the jump.