Sturgis Attendance Expected to Drop This Year

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If you wanted better proof that the American motorcycle industry is struggling right now, take a look at the expected attendance figures for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which is expecting its 77th gathering to be a bit smaller than in past years.

Some of that is to be expected, of course, after 2015 rally’s record year of 739,000 visitors; but for 2017, numbers are expected to be on par with the disappointing performance seen in 2016, which had 463,000 people in attendance.

For comparison, an average year for Sturgis sees 500,000 to 600,000 motorcyclists thronging to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

“The lowest numbers I’ve heard is that it will be even less than last year,” said Tom Horan, the Rapid City region operation engineer with the South Dakota Department of Transportation. “The highest numbers I’ve heard is that it will be less than an average year.”

“We are not expecting a large crowd this year,” Horan added, while speaking with the Rapid City Journal.

The US motorcycle industry is headed to a disappointing sales year for 2017, with Harley-Davidson already reporting that domestic sales are down 9.3% in the United States.

Other brands are showing sales declines in the USA as well, with so far only BMW Motorrad showing a modest 3% gain in the first six months of the year.

The Unites States is the outlier in the world market right now though, with motorcycle sales in Europe showing solid growth, as the EU shows better post-recession recovery than the US.

Despite most of the economic indicators showing positives in the United States, the growth seen in the American economy hasn’t had a terribly large effect on the American motorcycle industry’s core demographic: middle-class riders.

Couple that to an increasingly uncertain consumer market, which is affected heavily by the turmoil in Washington D.C., and you have a recipe for a struggling motorcycle industry.

In terms of how this affects attendance at Sturgis, we haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg that is the demographic cliff that brands like Harley-Davidson are about to walk off of, as the Baby Boomer generation ages out of being able to ride a motorcycle.

Source: Rapid City Journal

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.