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Old 01-16-2008, 02:17 PM   #1
akcarlson
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Default The Future of the American Motorcycle Industry

I see a grim future for our industry. With the economic downturn, discrectionary spending will certainly fall off, and, unfortunately, motorcycles are seen as luxury purchases by the vast majority of the American public, not as viable modes of transportation. New unit sales are down, and, anecdotally, most of the shops I've talked to in the are so far are saying that this is their slowest winter ever, even after last year's.

Now, my shop is in a unique position, in that we're primarily a service and repair shop, with some used sales on the side. And, being a small shop, we're sufficiently agile to change with the market's demands.

The only potential bright spot is the rising cost of fuel. I think that has the potential to both help re-centralize the population, and, therefore, shift the industry to smaller displacement, more practical bikes and scooters with better gas mileage and carrying capacity than the current sales leaders. Like Europe or Asia.

But, I see hard times a-comin' for our business, if current trends continue. So, here's the big question: do you see a sea change in the motorcycle industry's future, away from a lifestyle-accessory-oriented market and toward a commuter- and practicality-based market? Will public perception shift to see motorcycles as vehicles, and not toys?

I'm particularly interested in whether you've heard any perception shift from your non-riding friends. (Working the industry, I don't have a very good idea of what normal people are thinking any more.) Are your friends or co-workers talking about scooters or motorcycles as commuters?

I'm beginning to think that aside from staying focused on service and repair, and servicing the bikes that are already out there, we should start looking at small displacement, low-priced cycles that are unencumbersome to buy into and unintimidating to learn to ride and handle in the city.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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Old 01-16-2008, 02:28 PM   #2
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Harley is offering special low interest deals on "select models" for the first time in living memory. So definitely something is happening. It might be that sales of smaller bikes increase because of more people looking to save fuel money. Sportsters get better mileage than most full sized bikes so HD will probably do okay.

Maybe I can get that $2K Evo project bike soon, eh?
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Old 01-16-2008, 02:30 PM   #3
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I prophisy, giggle, snicker, a shift to utilitarian bikes. SS bikes will still be around but a smaller percentage of the market. Everybody is already oohing and ahhing over the Versys.
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Old 01-16-2008, 02:39 PM   #4
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I'm seeing way more new scooters buzzing around Burbank lately, with everything from teenage girls to old coots piloting them. When you look back at the "old days" after WWII, when folks didn't have that much money to throw into a new car, or full sized motorcycle, the scooter industry was big business. As a barometer to this, I cite the example of my long time friend Hippy Bob, who just sold his 1974 Mach III Kawasaki 500 and bought a used 1 year old 125cc Vino scooter.

I dig little motorcycles and scooters btw. Less is more in my humble opinion. I think we'll be seeing more small bikes on the road in the near future. And if that damn place in China ever gets me that spinal cord I've got on back-order, I'll be getting a 125 something or other too.
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Old 01-16-2008, 03:29 PM   #5
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No offense intended, but I hope the whole industry sees a huge downturn. Ever moron with a checkbook and can read a magazine article has either a new Harley or Hayabusa, and they can't wait to run into something or get caught at 150+ mph. Sorry, but I liked it when the 'officials' never cared because we were few and far between. The motorcycle in the US will always be a toy for most, and that's OK by me.
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Old 01-16-2008, 06:06 PM   #6
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And let's hope it all equals a big glut in the used motorcycle market!

Super cheap and slightly used bikes! Can't wait.
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Old 01-16-2008, 06:49 PM   #7
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It'd be nice to pick up a big twin for a reasonable price!
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Old 01-16-2008, 06:57 PM   #8
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I'm waiting for one of the 30 grand custom choppers to be listed for sale at 5 grand. I'd probably buy one just for the sh!ts and giggles knowing that some idiot forked over a king's fortune for something that ended up being worth less than a new KLR. (not to knock the KLR)
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Old 01-16-2008, 08:03 PM   #9
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At my work this last year two people bought GSXR-750s, two bought 100cc scooters and one more is thinking about buying one.

They all bought them to some degree because of traffic, the two scooters were also bought with mpg in mind. But I think the #1 thing was traffic.

I have a 250 I started riding on the street because of traffic myself.
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:00 PM   #10
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People who want a bike will always want a bike - economy be damned. Getting into one doesn't have to be a financial burden either. And with gas prices creeping every higher, people can "justify" the purchase if they must.

The chrome slathered toys and such may languish (or may not...), but the bike industry will probably just realign with the situation and keep on going.
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