US Motorcycle Sales Down In 2016 – By 2.1%!

2016 Motorcycle Sales Drop

Depending on whose opinion you’re listening to, 2016 was either a great year for the motorcycle industry or a disastrous one. Either way, the statistics don’t lie, and over here in the US all is not well. According to early reports of the MIC’s industry sales figures, it looks like sales were down in the USA, to the tune of shrinking down by 2.1% in 2016. Considering things were going very well in 2015, this is a bit of a shocker. It’s even worse when you hear that the UK’s sales have increased by a staggering 11.7%, with 128,644 registrations in 2016. But why has this happened?

Opinions vary, but some are putting it down to a lack of enthusiasm in the design department from the Japanese manufacturers and unbearably high prices from the European companies. Others are suggesting that the actual fuel economy isn’t worth the effort for a motorcycle. There are even a few opinions that are suggesting that it’s down to an aging riding population and a lack of interest from the younger generation. We’re not saying these opinions are wrong…we think it’s a combination of certain elements, but we’re not sure which ones.

Personally, I think that 2016 was a great year for innovation; we’re now seeing more efficient technologies making it into mainstream designs, and we’re also seeing more versatile machinery hitting the streets. Think of the efforts that have gone into supercharging, and the more utilitarian (but still sporty) designs being thrown at us. So, I wouldn’t say that the industry is as stagnant as some people suggest.

Next, let’s look at the fuel economy angle. Now, that’s a reason why the Euros are registering more bikes. For a start, they’re registering more small capacity bikes – in fact, 40% of new registrations were small displacement bikes. Why? Because they’re obviously more fuel efficient, especially when compared with the price of public transport, and are ideal for zipping around the urban streets. In the US, small capacity bikes don’t rule supreme. When you’ve got big roads and the rest of the traffic is comprised of oversized SUVs, you need something with a little road presence to keep yourself safe. And bigger bikes guzzle more fuel. So, that argument has a point, but I don’t think it’s a massive deal.

The last opinion that carries some weight is the aging demographic angle. My response to this one is similar to the last one. My first bike cost f*ck all to buy, to run, to insure, to tax, and finally, to maintain. If you’re a young rider, forking out $15k on a new bike isn’t easy, so it’s only natural that they’re being priced out of the market somewhat. I don’t think less people are interested in motorcycling, I think that they’re waiting until they can afford a decent bike, with all of the necessary protection that goes with it. There’s also an angle about a lack of female riders, but that’s simply not true: in 2015, female riders increased dramatically, so I imagine 2016 will follow suit.

Maybe it’s because we’re all still broke from the financial crisis? Maybe it’s because we’re holding on to our older motorcycles for longer? It’s hard to say. But it’s not all bad news. Early forecasts show that KTM, BMW and Triumph are showing strong global growth, and despite axing Victory Motorcycles, Polaris have posted strong sales for 2016. Who are the biggest losers though? Well, that is too early to tell, but reports are suggesting that Harley Davidson and Ducati might be letting the side down…

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Categories: Motorcycles

Joe Appleton
About Joe Appleton

I’ve done a bit of work here and there in the industry – I’ve even ridden a few bikes for actual money but what it comes down to is this: I ride bikes, build bikes and occasionally crash ‘em too. I like what I like but that certainly doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than yours…