Technology

Large Motorcycles

Large Motorcycles are Dying in the US; and Harley-Davidson is Dying Fastest

There’s bad news for the motorcycle industry in the U.S. – it’s slowly dying.This may sound alarmist, but with the recent release of industry statistics for the second quarter of 2017, it’s apparent that there is definitely a noticeable decline in motorcycling in America – and it’s a challenge that every manufacturer is struggling with and preparing for.At the core of the problem is the aging of the average American motorcyclist, as successive younger generations get into motorcycling at a progressively lower rate. The current battleground among motorcycle manufacturers for new customers is Millenials, who – now in their 20s and 30s – are at the prime age for purchasing recreational vehicles like motorcycles. One problem with that strategy – millenials just aren’t that into them.It’s not only something inherent to motorcycles that millenials are shying away from – young people these days don’t like to drive in general. The very possession of a driver license has fallen double-digit percentages among teens and adults in just the last few decades, a finding released in a 2014 University of Michigan study on the phenomenon.

The motorcycle industry is struggling with this, along with the aging of it’s customer base overall. As of 2016, the median age of the American motorcyclist is 47, up from 40 in 2009, and 32 in 1990. Trace those numbers back, and a scary discovery emerges – the American motorcycle riding is more or less defined by a single age cohort, that is getting older (but not being replaced by new riders.)

Another key metric particular to the American market – heavyweight motorcycle new registrations – has also plummeted by 7% since last year. The brand most heavily affected by this trend is the long-time king among heavyweight bikes in the U.S., Harley-Davidson.

In the face of a shrinking market, several other manufacturers have done a good job creating less expensive, easier-to-own motorcycles that the young people who do ride seem to love – such Ducati with it’s Scrambler line, and Yamaha with its wildly successful FZs.

But Harley-Davidson has little luck with its own version of the same strategy. It’s not for lack of trying – the Motor Company has released several new models with four-digit price tags aimed at younger riders. But the new models haven’t met with much success. We’ve reported on it periodically over the last several years, but Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales have been slipping, quarter after quarter, for years now, despite their continuous efforts to get new riders into the fold.

And recent Q2 results from Harley-Davidson indicate that it isn’t just their motorcycle sales that are slipping (which could be attributed to large-scale recalls, economic factors, or stiff competition) – it seems to be the brand itself. While sales of Harley’s bikes are down, its branded merchandise is faring far worse – sales are down 17% in Q2 on general merchandise revenue, which, as bad as it sounds, is actually up from the 21% dip during the previous quarter. Harley’s forecast for the rest of the year is no less bleak, and layoffs are already in the works. Click Here…

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