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In its May issue, Consumer Reports dives into the topic of motorcycle reliability, and confirms what many of us already knew: bikes from BMW and Harley-Davidson were reported to be less reliable than those from the Japanese OEMs.

Interestingly enough however, BMW and Harley-Davidson owners were also far more likely to make a repeat-purchase with their chosen brand than were owners of Japanese motorcycles, sans those of Hondas, which scored just slightly lower than BMW and Harley-Davidson on customer retention.

Looking at customer complaints of “major” mechanical problems from the last four years, the report from over 4,000 motorcycle owners confirms the high-water mark set by the Japanese OEMs on motorcycle reliability, but also shows the power of good branding as it translates into brand loyalty and customer retention.

While Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha may be winning the minds of riders with their production prowess, they are losing the hearts of consumers, which is interesting since any salesman will tell you it is easier to keep a current customer, than to make a new one.

Outlining its findings, Consumer Reports says that one-in-four Harley-Davidson owners experience a major problem with their machine, while an even more staggering one-in-three BMW owners made a similar complaint. Contrast those figures with Yamaha, which saw similar reports in only one-in-ten of its owners, with Kawasaki and Honda owners posting similar figures.

On the other side of the coin though, when asked whether they would buy their bikes again, 75% of Harley-Davidson owners said “definitely yes” while 74% of BMW and 72% of Honda owners made a similar remark. Meanwhile, only 63% and 60% of Yamaha and Kawasaki owners, respectively, said the same about their motorcycles.

From its findings, Consumer Reports says reliability was a strong variable in the decision-making process for motorcycle purchasers, but as we see here with the data, brand loyalty and other intrinsic qualities played a factor as well. In short, in order to be a true sales success motorcycle companies need to make not only good machines, but also good brands/customer experiences. Shocking information, we know.

Source: Consumer Reports