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High gas prices spur interest in bikes

Good fuel efficiency may help sales rebound

By Dennis Chung, Jun. 27, 2008
Bike sales have been down recently due to recent economic struggles, but rising gas prices may help to offset those losses as consumers seek more fuel efficient methods of transportation, says a report by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

The Auto Pulse survey, conducted over the telephone with 884 adults June 5-8, examined the effect that rising gas prices have had on consumer trends.

Gas prices reached $4.08 per gallon on June 23, a 38% increase from Feb. 11 when prices were at $2.96, according to the Energy Information Administration. The survey shows that the high gas prices have spurred consumers into making changes to reduce their fuel consumption, as well as considering more fuel efficient options such as motorcycles.

According to the 2008 survey, 26% of adults have considered switching from cars to two-wheeled modes of transportation because of the rising cost of fuel; 18% have considered motorcycles while 14% have thought about scooters as an option.

Many major manufacturers have reported decreases in sales over the last several months. Yamaha North America reported a decline of 36.7% in first quarter sales in 2008 when compared to the same period in 2007. Honda’s North American sales have reported a drop of 14% in that same period. Meanwhile, Harley-Davidson’s recent struggles have been heavily reported, where a 12.8% decrease has reduced The Motor Company’s workforce by more than 700 employees.Yamaha hopes to improve sales by touting the fuel efficiency of its scooters such as the 2009 Zuma. The 49cc air-cooled two-stroke is said to get a whopping 123 mpg.

Manufacturers have begun to place added emphasis on the fuel efficiency of their products to help turn things around. When Yamaha recently released their 2009 scooter line, it highlighted each vehicle’s fuel efficiency as a main selling point.

In the 2007 Auto Pulse survey, motorists said that $3.50 per gallon would be a breaking point for fuel prices that would cause them to consider making considerable changes to their habits. The results of this year’s survey support that statistic

The 2008 Auto Pulse survey also says that $4.32 per gallon is the new breaking point; if gas prices rise above that mark, and from the looks of it, that may not be too far off, consumers would take further actions at changing their driving habits.

It’s up to motorcycle manufacturers to take steps now to take advantage of this trend to help turn their fortunes around.