US Motorcycle Q1 2014 Sales Flatlined

05/01/2014 @ 2:28 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS


How Is that rebounding economy treating you? If you work in the motorcycle industry, probably not so well according to the Motorcycle Industry Council’s latest sales report, which highlights sales from the first-quarter of 2014. Down 0.2% (or 118 units) from Q1 2013, the slight decline over last year’s numbers are primarily due to a 10.7% sales drop in scooter sales.

Dual-sport motorcycles were up 3.9% (7,644 units), with on-road bikes holding at 0.9% growth (65,301 units). Dirt bike sales were down 2.7% during the same three-month time period (16,597 units).

In total, 94,524 two-wheel vehicles were sold in the US (94,772 units were sold in Q1 2013) according to the MIC, which tracks Can-Am, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Piaggio Group, Victory, Suzuki, Triumph, and Yamaha.

The news is troubling for the US motorcycle industry, as Q1 2013 was an especially bad quarter for the US motorcycle industry. However, overall  yearly sales have clearly stabilized since the Great Recession, but they still have worryingly not bounced back yet either, as had been hoped.

The only two-wheeled segment that has shown signs of growth has been the enduro market, though one could argue that the changes there are do in part to the crack down of pure off-road vehicles at the state and federal level, with buyers buying dual-sport machines in order to side-step regulations.

They say misery loves company, so there is some solace in the fact that the US economy was especially weak in the first-quarter of this year as well. To that end, the US Commerce Department says that the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew only 0.1% in the first three months of 2014.

With American buyers still feeling the pressure of the economy, and US motorcycle sales still dependent on consumer discretionary income, we should perhaps not be surprised by the MIC’s findings. Here’s to hoping for a more prosperous summer, for everyone.

2014 2013 Change Percent Change
DUAL 7644 7355 289 3.9%
OFF-HWY 16,597 17,058 -461 -2.7%
ON-HWY 65,301 64,720 581 0.9%
SCOOTER 4992 5589 -597 -10.7%
TOTAL 94,534 94,722 -188 -0.2%
ATV 45,388 45,183 205 0.5%

Source: MIC

  • Paul McM

    I think sales will continue to be weak because, as a share of disposable income, motorcycles are much more expensive than they were in decades past (or so it seems). I remember when you could buy a new 900-1000cc bike for $3300, which was about 10% of what a decent white-collar job paid ($30K/year). Now the equivalent machine costs $13,000 – $16,000 when the same job might pay $65,000. Yes wages have gone up, but the ratio of bike cost to annual income has changed dramatically. In the 1980s I could get a new bike for 10% of my annual income. Now someone with the same type of white-collar job might have to pay 25% of annual income for an equivalent machine.

    And not many people can afford $15,000 Hondas or $20,000 Harleys. Using 2011 numbers, the median wage in the US per person is $26,695. The median household income is at $50,500. And 66 percent of Americans earn less than $41,212. (Stats from Social Security tax records for 2011.)

    And sad to say, when the real “price-tag” for Obamacare hits next year, most middle-class workers (those earning over $40k/year) will have less “available” income than before — thousands less.


  • Lewis Dawson

    Paul, very interesting post. After years of slow-but-steady growth, US motorcycle sales took off like a rocket in about 1998. By 2005, sales were triple the 1997 level, and much of that growth was in relatively high end bikes. Biking became mainstream cool. The fad fizzled and the economy fizzled and by 2010 we were back roughly on the historical trend line. So who is to say sales are weak now? Yes, sales are weak compared to the 1998-2005 surge, but sales are sort of normal compared to the pre-surge trend.

    As for these 1st quarter numbers, let’s wait for more data before saying the industry is flatlining. I’m pretty sure weather was a factor, a more severe winter in 2014.

    One thing these numbers do seem to show is that all the noise about smaller street bikes (250-500 cc) is mainly noise, not a lot of sales. I say that after combining these MIC figures with Harley-Davidson’s reported sales and market share of street bikes over 600 cc (35,700 sales = 56.0% share of 600+ cc market). So street bikes under 600 cc would appear to be a very small market in the US.

    Harley-Davidson has done a great job of adjusting to market realities post the 2005 market peak. As an American motorcycle junkie, I was hoping HD would put more effort into the MV Agusta subsidiary, and also leverage MV Agusta into a solution for Buell product problems and image problems. Clearly, HD mismanaged Erik Buell and Buell Motorcycle Company for many years. Once that became obvious, it is hard to argue with what they did in 2009. Especially with five years of 20:20 hindsight. Harley-Davidson is a world class juggernaut that seems to go from strength to strength, despite their many naysayers.

  • paulus

    The 2000’s boom was a time of ‘tomorrow’s money today’…. easy and low cost credit.
    Many people could get loans for toys which would have otherwise been unavailable. Everything surged in sales. UTV’s, ATV, jet-skis and all motorized toys.
    Now it’s time to pay for that credit. The credit crunch is on… the cash is restricted.

    the 2nd hand market is also awash with bargain high end toys and reasonably priced super-bikes. Cash is king right now.

    Until there is more money floating in the economy, sales will be tough.

    It’s not all down though. Dual sports have improved in performance and improved in demand as a result. You now have a road legal, EPA compliant vehicle that is truly ‘ready to race’…. it’s an awesome time to be into off-road, however the costs have hit there too. USD7,000 – 10,000 for a machine. That used to be supersports and superbike money in the not to distant past.

    Let’s hope Q2 improves

  • dave

    Motorcycle sales figures over the last few years contain a data irergularity that skews the trends, and that irregularity is the result of the housing and credit crunch. when bike sales soared the money came from home refinancing and loans. now that the spigot is shut off, the money cannot be acquired for a $20,000.00 KTM Adventure (out the door it is 20K, yes?).

    I make a good salary and yet I cannot bring myself to drop 20K on a new KTM. It is just too much.

    I think the companies know this, which is one reason we are seeing the same schism happen to motorcycling that is happening to the rest of the financial world (read: the whlle world). There is an expanding, unliimited pool of money way up high, a big gap in the middle, and a small pool of money on the cheap end. THis is why private jet manufacturers and wal-mart are both doing well, but businesses that cater to the middle class are tanking.

    sorry, mates, but capitalism is failing most of us, including dealerships, who are decidedly middle class, mostly.

  • dave

    oh, and this is why we are seeing surge in smaller bikes. we are being told that we like small bikes now, our tastes are being shaped so that we think we want them, which is actually a good thing. myself – i ride the ninja 250 daily and love it. the ninja 1000 sits in the garage, mostly.

  • Capitalism is not failing us, politicians are.

  • I’d also have to say if were not for the efforts of Honda and Yamaha coming out with mid size, lower priced, and more fuel efficient bikes things would surely look worse.

  • Lewis Dawson


    As I mentioned earlier in this thread, my crude analysis of the US statistics does not find room for much of a surge in the smaller bikes you guys both mention. Detailed stats about the US market are not available, or perhaps only available to industry insiders. Clearly, the Japanese OEM’s (and KTM and others) are working hard on products for emerging markets. And many of these products are being imported into the US. But how many sales are actually occurring? I’d love to find some meaningful indicator of sales trends at 600 cc and below.

  • Dave

    Market shaping. We are being programmed now. It will show its effects going forward. Think..Bernaise and cigarettes.