Q1 New Unit Motorcycle Sales Fall Nearly 30% – Lead Bike Ban All Hype?

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First quarter numbers for the powersports industry  are coming in, and they don’t look good. New unit sales were down more than 30% compared to Q1 of 2008. This drop is attributed to both the economic slowdown, as well as the ban on youth-designed ATVs and motorcycles with lead paint. 


ATV sales and dirt bike sales, the two segments hit the hardest by the ban on youth-designed vehicles that do not meet new lead regulations, were each down more than 33%. Dirt bike sales were off close to 40%. Also unaffected, on-road motorcycle sales also dipped more than 27% below 2008 first-quarter levels. 

The most interesting thing to come out of this data is perhaps the hype that has surrounded the lead/children’s bike ban. For all of the clammering that has surrounded the issue (we still don’t know why you would want your child on a bike with lead-based materials), the numbers show that perhaps the ban isn’t having . If you hold that the on-road market shows the baseline affect of the economy has had on new bike sales, then at best, the lead-materials ban is accountable for a 13% dip in off-road sales.

On its own, that might be enough to cause a fuss about (although maybe not to the level it was taken). However, consider this: during economic slowdowns we see consumers spending less on discretionary goods. Motorcycles, in any form, are still very much a recreational purchase for most buyers. When you break the industry down into its smaller sub-sections, ATVs and dirt bikes are purely a recreational purchase, whereas street-bikes serve some marginal utility as a commuting vehicle, due to improved gas-mileage over a car.

So how much of that 13% difference is based on the fact that the consumers cannot justify an expense like a dirt bike that has no practical purpose in day-to-day life, and how much of that is related to the consumer not being able to buy a children’s motorcycle because of a crack-down on lead based materials? What percentage of the off-road market is youth bikes affected by the ban? What is that in sales revenue, when compared to adult bikes that cost 2x, 3x and 4x more?

Source: Powersports Business

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.