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Motorcycle Manufacturers Face Decreasing Sales

August 26, 2009

When the motorcycle first became part of American culture, it was largely due to its status as a machine built for rebels.

However, due to slower sales, retailers and manufacturers are attempting to shift the perception of the American motorcycle from a road monster to a eco-friendly fuel sipper.

Reuters cited data from the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) showing that combined sales of the top 12 motorcycle brands were down 46 percent during the first half of this year, compared to the same period in 2008.

The figures were cause for alarm for Harley-Davidson, which has traditionally been known for its large, boisterous bikes.

Last month, Harley-Davidson said it would be shipping between 25 percent and 30 percent less than it shipped during last year. The company also reported that its US sales had dropped 26.1 percent during the first six months of 2009.

In addition to lowering shipments, the company chose to cut costs by laying off 700 hourly workers last month along with 1,100 to 1,200 job cuts announced earlier this year.

By comparison, scooters, the smaller cousins of the American motorcycle, have been seeing rising sales in recent years.

MIC reported that scooter sales have risen 41 percent during 2007 and 2008, accounting for 20 percent of all motorcycle sales last year.

But most Americans still view motorcycles as an object of leisure.

An MIC survey found that just 35 percent of motorcycle owners said they ride their bikes often for commuting or running errands.

“People who ride motorcycles do so because of the image that they feel, the fresh air outside and going where they want to go,” Don Brown of industry analysts DJB Associates, told Reuters.

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